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PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A pharmaceutical company will pay more than $20 million for multiple Clean Water Act violations stemming from three chemical spills, one of which killed more than 1,000 fish and forced the city to temporarily shut off drinking water intakes. Based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., Merck & Co. Inc. will pay $10 million for systems to prevent future hazardous discharges at the facility 15 miles outside Philadelphia, and $9 million for other large-scale environmental protection projects, federal authorities said Thursday. Merck also will pay $750,000 to the federal government, $750,000 to the state and $75,000 to the state Fish and Boat Commission in penalties and civil damages for the three 2006 discharges in the Wissahickon Creek, which is the source of 40 percent of Philadelphia’s drinking water. “Perhaps more than anything else, this settlement says to every company that discharges dangerous chemicals as part of its operations that it is accountable to the environment and the community,” U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Meehan said in a statement. “No one should have to wonder, when they walk into the kitchen for a glass of water, if what they are about to drink is going to make them or their children sick.” The pharmaceutical and vaccine research and manufacturing facility in West Point, Montgomery County, released about 25 gallons of potassium thiocyanate into the Upper Gwynedd Township wastewater treatment system on June 13, 2006. The compound, which used for making industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and pesticides, turned toxic when it reacted with the chlorination system. The discharge killed about 1,000 fish in the Wissahickon Creek on June 14 and June 15, caused the Philadelphia Water Department to close its Schuylkill River drinking water intake for both days, and led the state Department of Environmental Protection to ban all recreational uses on the creek for nearly a month. On Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, 2006, Merck released a high-protein solution used in the manufacture of vaccines into the sewage system that sent foam floating down stretches of the Wissahickon, Meehan said. On Aug. 16, 2006, Merck discharged cleaning agents that caused another foam discharge into the creek, Meehan said. Under a proposed consent decree, Merck will create a system to track waste handling, name a task force to assess current protocols, and increase testing and assessment. Merck also must implement long-term remedial policies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Merck will restore part of the Wissahickon to improve water quality, create wetlands on a nearby 10-acre parcel, purchase technology that monitors fish activity to give the Philadelphia Water Department an early warning system, and make other improvements. Included in the total is a $4.5 million contribution from Merck that will go toward the purchase of a 96-acre land parcel adjacent to the creek that will have restricted use and open space easements in perpetuity. “Merck believes the settlement we reached is fair, and we are pleased that it includes important projects that will result in permanent benefits to our local environment,” spokesman Ian McConnell said in a statement. Donald S. Welsh, the EPA regional administrator, said, “These improvements and Merck’s environmental accountability has implications extending beyond the boundaries of its facility.” Merck’s operations in West Point are on a 400-acre site with 110 buildings and 8,500 employees.

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