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WEST CHESTER — It has been a long process, but West Chester ended the long battle with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer in a draw after the borough council voted to approve a settlement agreement on May 18.
“While the borough has full faith in the merits of its claims against Pfizer/Wyeth, the settlement allows the borough to finalize litigation that has gone in favor of each part at various points, leaving the likely results uncertain,” Ellen Koopman, president of the borough council, said in a release.
Wyeth was bought out by Pfizer for $68 billion in 2009, which came with the Wyeth plant on South Bolmar Street.
In 2011, the company said it would not continue paying the $800,000 a year Wyeth did for maintenance of the Goose Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, leading to Pfizer suing the borough to refund money it paid into the system since 2004, but the borough countersued.
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The Common Pleas Court ruled in favor of the borough in 2014 and said Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., was required to pay more than $1.72 million to the borough in damages and that the agreement remained valid and enforceable, meaning Wyeth must continue to make the required quarterly payments.
“The borough remains hopeful that Wyeth, now controlled by Pfizer, Inc., will demonstrate corporate responsibility by abiding by the court’s decision, bringing their past due sewer account up to date, and paying their future obligations in a timely fashion,” said then-council president Jordan Norley in a written statement in 2014.
Pfizer appealed to the Commonwealth Court, where the ruling was overturned on the grounds that the agreement ended in 2011 when Pfizer told the borough it objected to the payments and was told by the court it could be entitled to rebates related to the charges assessed by the borough from 2006 to 2011.
The borough then appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The Goose Creek plant was constructed in the 1980s as part of a cooperation with Wyeth to accommodate the pharmaceutical waste which was discharged by the facility, leading to a written agreement between Wyeth and the borough in 1984 that the company was obligated to contribute to the cost of construction and ongoing maintenance for the life of the plant.
In 2004, the facilities on South Bolmar Street were closed and by 2006, the buildings were demolished, though Wyeth continued to make payments to West Chester.
However, when Pfizer bought the company, it objected to making the payments because there were no facilities to produce wastewater at the location, prompting them to sue the borough in 2012.
With the settlement, the 1984 written agreement has been terminated, the borough drops the appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and it mutually releases both sides from any obligation, causes of action and suits related to any matter arising out of sewer services provided by the borough for the benefit of Pfizer and Wyeth, the 1984 agreement and the outstanding litigation.
“The settlement resolves the litigation in a manner that protects the borough’s financial interests and allows both the borough and Pfizer/Wyeth to move forward,” Koopman said in the release.