Senator asks if Territory is getting any share of settlement between StarKist and USDOJ

Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean wants to know if American Samoa is getting any share of the multi-million-dollar proposed settlement agreement between StarKist Co., and the US Department of Justice, over the cannery’s violation of federal environmental laws in Pago Pago Harbor.

 USDOJ is currently accepting public comments for a 30-day period, which began Sept. 18th, on the settlement through a proposed Consent Decree filed with the federal court in Pittsburgh, where the federal complaint was lodged by USDOJ, on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency, against StarKist Co., and its American Samoa subsidiary StarKist Samoa Inc.

A copy of the proposed 40-page Decree, as well as the address to file public comments, is available through federal portal <www.federalregistry.gov>.

Under the Decree, USDOJ says StarKist will pay a $6.3 million penalty and provide emergency response equipment to the territory’s Department of Public Safety, Fire Services Bureau, for use in responding to chemical releases. (See Samoa News Sept. 13th edition for details).

In particular, StarKist is required to perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) requiring it to purchase and donate no less than $88,000 worth of specified emergency response equipment to the local Fire Bureau.

At last Thursday’s Senate session, Tuaolo inquired about the settlement and where the money will go, saying that if American Samoa is not benefiting from such a huge proposed judgement, then what is the purpose of it.

He said the cannery has polluted the territory’s waters and we should benefit from the settlement, instead of the money being left in the US where it will benefit others.

And if American Samoa is not getting this money, Tuaolo suggests that local leaders communicate with Congresswoman Aumua Amata.

He said American Samoa needs this financial assistance, and $6.3 million is a huge amount of money. He suspects that when the judgment becomes final, there will probably be suggestions that money be allocated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Coast Guard. “But what about Tutuila and Manu’a?” he asked.

Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie acknowledged the issue raised by Tuaolo, and said the Senate leadership will provide an answer soon.

According to USDOJ, the Decree requires StarKist to improve the facility’s ammonia refrigeration system and discontinue using chlorine gas and butane, which will greatly reduce the risk of hazardous substance releases. In addition, StarKist has submitted emergency planning information to local responders and will implement a new system for notifying the public, in real time, in the event of a release.

To prevent oil spills, StarKist is upgrading four large above ground oil storage tanks containing diesel oil, used petroleum oil, and food-grade oil — a byproduct of fish processing. The four tanks, located only feet from inner Pago Pago Harbor, were found to have inadequate secondary containment structures as required by the Clean Water Act. In its own audit, StarKist identified additional problems, including violations of hazardous waste management and notification regulations, and disclosed them to USEPA.

StarKist Co., and StarKist Samoa are owned by South Korea-based Dongwon Industries. USDOJ said StarKist Co. is the world’s largest supplier of canned tuna, and the American Samoa facility processes and cans tuna for human consumption and processes fish byproducts into fishmeal and fish oil.

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