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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2007

Dana Corp. seeks federal funds for toxic site cleanup


Dana Corp. wants the U.S. government to pick up some of the $250 million cost of cleaning up a toxic factory site in South Plainfield, N.J., arguing the Defense Department oversaw the factory during World War II, when much of the contamination occurred.

In papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York City, the Toledo auto parts firm asked a judge to reject the government's environmental-damage claims against it. It said most of the $300 million in costs the government is seeking are related to the South Plainfield site, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists among the country's most hazardous.

The government hasn't accused Dana of contaminating the site - actual contamination, according to court papers, occurred after Dana stopped using the site in 1929 and leased it to Cornell Dubilier Electronics Inc.

The EPA said Cornell Dubilier "dumped material contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other substances directly onto site soils."

Still, the government contends Dana is liable for the entire cleanup because it owned the site when it was contaminated.

In its court papers, Dana said the government's claim is unfair because "it effectively seeks to shift the government's own liability to Dana."

Cornell Dubilier makes capacitors and other electronic components. During World War II, the Defense Department was "pervasively involved" in operations of the South Plainfield factory, Dana said, citing a memo written to the EPA by a Cornell Dubilier attorney in 2004.

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