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Washington County settles methane gas cleanup lawsuit

Attorneys for the county had estimated the county endured $2.7 million in damages from work done by Leahy Construction Inc.

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Board of Commissioners approved a settlement Tuesday in which Ken Leahy Construction Inc. has agreed to pay the county $1 million for indemnity from issues concerning the Durham quarry landfill, now the site known as the Bridgeport Village shopping center.

The proposed settlement sets up a payment schedule whereby Leahy defendants will pay the county $250,000 a year for the next four years.

Kenneth and Donna Leahy, owners of the construction company, agreed to and signed the settlement agreement on April 8.

The terms of the settlement include no admission of fault by Leahy Construction of any claims alleged in a lawsuit filed by the county in U.S. District Court in October.

For more than 10 years - from January 1991 to December 2002 - the county contracted the construction company to backfill the Durham quarry. County officials had decided to stop quarry operations and to make the land suitable for commercial development and resale.

The county's lawsuit alleged that Ken Leahy Construction allowed the use of fill at the site which included organic, putrescible and non-inert material. The county supported its allegations with investigations and monitoring by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

According to DEQ records, 'site contaminants are believed to (have) originated from wastes that were buried at the site during quarry pit backfilling operations, as well as decomposition products from those wastes.'

According to the county, agreements in place at the time required that fill placed at the quarry site exclude organic and non-inert material.

Washington County entered into a voluntary cleanup program with DEQ in June 2003 after the site was found to have high subsurface methane concentrations and pressures. In February of 2004, DEQ issued a Record of Decision requiring methane gas mitigation controls as part of the site development, which was implemented, with the help of Washington County and Bridgeport Village representatives.

In the lawsuit the county did not list a dollar amount for damages. But attorneys for the county estimated that Washington County had endured more than $2.7 million in damages through April 2007 because of costs incurred from cleanup and monitoring of methane at the old quarry site. The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted in June to initiate legal action against Ken Leahy Construction, Inc.