Now five months gone from a Department of Justice status update, U.S. Magistrate Judge Benjamin Cheesbro ordered the federal government to respond as to whether it stands by the proposed consent decree it made with Hercules regarding cleanup of the Terry Creek outfall site.

While Terry Creek isn’t an official Superfund site, the federal government treats it like one through a process called the Superfund Alternative Approach. Part of this approach is securing an agreement with the responsible party — in this case, Hercules — for remedial action.

The consent decree reached by the DOJ, the Environmental Protection Agency and Hercules is the least expensive for the company out of all the options considered. What it would do is reroute current discharge into the creek through a concrete-lined channel, and place a geotextile fabric over existing contaminated sediment with the hope it doesn’t move elsewhere.

Hercules already removed 35,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, but that didn’t account for all of it. Resolutions passed by the city of Brunswick and Glynn County state that the city and county do not approve of the current consent decree, and the general inclination is that Hercules should thoroughly clean up the site instead of covering up what remains.

On Dec. 11, DOJ attorney Valerie Mann wrote in a status report, “During the comment period, the United States received approximately one hundred comments. The United States hereby notifies the court it is presently reviewing this unusually high volume of comments and, upon completion of this review, will determine its response.

“If, after reviewing the public comments, the United States concludes that the consent decree should be entered, the United States will seek entry of the consent decree as an order of the court.”

Tuesday, Cheesbro acknowledged these statements and wrote that since it’s been five months since the status update, and since there’s been no action on behalf of the federal government, he’s ordering the DOJ to respond with an updated status report by May 28.

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