Two of Switzerland's largest drug and chemical firms, Novartis and Ciba Specialty Chemicals, have agreed to a $90 million (SFr151.7 million) cleanup at a designated Superfund site in the state of New Jersey, in the northeast of the United States.
The US Congress established the Superfund programme in 1980 to locate, investigate, and clean up the worst environmentally damaged sites.
The companies agreed to the cleanup under a consent decree lodged on Monday in a US District Court.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made the agreement with the companies, which have already spent an estimated $60 million on a groundwater cleanup at the Toms River, New Jersey, chemical manufacturing site.
This follows a payment of $12 million by Novartis and Ciba for costs associated with the soil cleanup, the agency said in a statement.
When contacted by swissinfo Novartis refused to comment, explaining that Ciba Specialty Chemicals was taking the lead on this issue. Ciba's Basel headquarters had no one available to comment when contacted by swissinfo.
Under EPA oversight, the companies have agreed to treat or dispose of some 150,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and over 30,000 drums of hazardous and solid waste, to install caps and barrier walls in the subsurface and to monitor the site, the EPA said.
Part of the 1,400-acre Toms River site was used for the manufacture of various chemicals starting in 1952 by a company later acquired by Ciba-Geigy, which merged with Sandoz to form Novartis and transferred its chemicals business to Ciba Specialty Chemicals.
The EPA first began investigating the site in 1980. Products made at the site, which was closed in 1996, included pigments, organic dyestuffs and epoxy resins.
swissinfo with agencies