How to File a Ground Water Contamination Lawsuit
The government has instituted a process called a Natural Resource Damage lawsuit to force corporations that pollute the water and soil to compensate victims for the loss of their natural resources. This mechanism allows people to file suit against polluters like Hexcel, Metso, and Fine Organics for any damage to the environment they have caused. But how does this work? How does one go about filing a Ground Water Contamination lawsuit?
In late April 2008, a group of concerned residents in Ivy Park, Pennsylvania filed a suit against a potentially responsible party for causing a groundwater contamination event. The complaint contained claims under CERCLA for cost recovery and nuisance. The plaintiffs sought recovery for past and future response costs, prejudgment interest, and more. The company subsequently agreed to install water filtration systems for the neighborhood.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection filed a lawsuit against Connecticut-based Hexcel Corporation for groundwater contamination at a Lodi, NJ, manufacturing facility. During the operation of the facility, toxic chemicals, and fuel oil leaked into the groundwater. In 1986, Hexcel sold the site to Fine Organics Corporation, which operated the facility for 12 years before ceasing operations. These chemicals were detected in the water supply and pose a threat to human health, particularly to the reproductive system and neurological systems.
A lawsuit filed against the major oil companies is attempting to force them to clean up MTBE, a chemical added to gasoline to improve engine performance. This chemical was known to leak from underground storage tanks at gas stations, causing contamination in California water aquifers and soils. The company has agreed to pay $423 million in damages and 70 percent of the costs of clean-up. The lawsuit seeks costs associated with cleaning up the contamination, as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
A PFAS and groundwater contamination lawsuit is being investigated by attorneys at McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP. PFAS are synthetic chemicals that are commonly used in the construction, aerospace and textile industries. Although they do not naturally break down, they pose significant health risks. PFAS have contaminated the drinking water of millions of people, including children. The chemicals are extremely toxic when in large concentrations, and the lawsuit seeks to make manufacturers responsible.
In May of 2016, a PFOA and groundwater contamination lawsuit was filed against Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, the former and current owners of the Teflon plant in West Virginia. The lawsuit names Saint-Gobain as a defendant and has a large class-action settlement to date. In 2004, DuPont and Teflon makers agreed to pay $107 million to residents of the neighborhood that surrounded the factory. The residents had complained that their groundwater was contaminated with the chemical.
A class-action lawsuit against three major manufacturers of PFOS and PFOA chemicals has been filed in Orange County, California. The plaintiffs, in this case, are 11 public water systems in Orange County, which are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for groundwater contamination and damages to wells and treatment plants. The lawsuit alleges that these companies knew of the potential risks, but did not disclose them. Fortunately, the plaintiffs have the backing of a large number of local and state governments.
The case scenario for a Source investigation in a groundwater contamination lawsuit is quite common. Upon receiving a phone call from a company facility, an in-house attorney knows that he is in for some bad news. After all, the samples returned show contamination in the drinking water wells of many neighbors within two miles of the company’s facility. The in-house attorney now faces an unenviable task: the handling of hundreds of lawsuits and the publication of incriminating articles in the local paper.
Limitation of purported class based on time or geography
The Ivy Park groundwater contamination lawsuit exemplifies the archetypical “long-term mass tort” litigation in which individual issues of liability overshadowed common ones. This is because the Ivy Park case involved multiple releases and plumes of contamination, multiple potentially responsible parties, and wildly varying periods and levels of exposure. Moreover, the plaintiffs were seeking to recover damages for a relatively small percentage of the total groundwater contamination resulting from their landowner’s practices.
Liability for natural resource damages
Under the Clean Water Act (CWA), a responsible party is responsible for the damage to a natural resource. The Act provides guidelines for determining whether private property has a sufficiently close relationship to the resource. In other words, the degree of government regulation strengthens the trustee’s claim for an NRD award. The level of government regulation also plays a role in determining the extent of a private property owner’s right to pollute.