News and Views

February 15, 2018

Minnesota vs. 3M: A guide to the $5 billion mega-trial

Source: https://www.twincities.com, February 11, 2018
By: Bob Shaw

Call it the $5 billion Teflon trial — Minnesota’s biggest environmental lawsuit ever.

When the trial of the State of Minnesota vs. 3M Co. starts Feb. 20, it will pit the state against what may be its most-loved company. The state attorney general will be taking on a $145 billion corporate behemoth and charging it with fouling the state’s water.

The lawsuit hinges on the alleged damage caused by chemicals found in household items such as nonstick cookware and stain repellent.

The state says the chemicals were made by 3M, dumped by 3M and consumed by 67,000 local water-drinkers and have now spread around the world. 3M, according to Attorney General Lori Swanson, should abide by the Pottery Barn rule: “If you break it, you pay for it.”

3M says the chemicals are indeed widespread — but harmless. Ultra-high concentrations do cause diseases in laboratory animals, it says, but it’s not possible that the parts-per-trillion traces in water have hurt humans, fish or even plants.

The trial, says 3M, is about a bogus health scare.

A key element of the trial will be the alleged 3M coverup. The state says 3M knew the chemicals caused cancer and didn’t tell health officials. 3M says it did tell officials — and for more than 50 years kept them informed about every aspect of its chemical testing and disposal.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.…

February 12, 2018

Ohio sues DuPont over C8 contamination concerns

Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH), February 9, 2018
Posted on: http://www.advisen.com

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed suit against chemical company DuPont, alleging it released toxic perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or C8, for decades from its Washington Works plant on the Ohio River — despite knowing potential health and environmental risks.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, calls for DuPont to fund an investigation into PFOA contamination as well as pay for any necessary cleanup of the man-made chemical, which has been linked to various health risks, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight and high cholesterol.

“We think Ohioans have the right to enjoy the state’s natural resources without interacting with these chemicals,” said Dan Tierney, a spokesman with the Attorney General’s office.

A DuPont spokesperson declined to comment, saying the company had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

PFOA builds up and persists in blood as well as in soil and water, where it is resistant to regular environmental degradation.

Perfluorochemicals have been used in fire-fighting foams and in the manufacturing of cookware, furniture, carpeting, and stain- and water-resistant coatings.

DuPont used PFOA to manufacture Teflon products from the 1950s through 2013.

According to the state’s lawsuit, DuPont released the chemical from its Washington Works plant — located near Parkersburg, West Virginia — for decades. The company ignored internal research and medical staff conclusions that PFOA was toxic and could cause serious health problems and instead allegedly released more of the contaminant into the air, water and land around the plant.

A 2017 University of Cincinnati study analyzed blood samples collected between 1991 and 2012 from the Mid-Ohio River Valley region. Researchers found elevated blood levels of PFOA in residents stretching from Evansville, Indiana to Huntington, West Virginia.

“One of the key factors in pulling the trigger on litigation like this is information gathering,” Tierney said. “We have better evidence and better measures of the effects of what was allegedly contaminated in the area. We believe now, with the progression of science … we have a really strong case.”

In February 2017, DuPont and its spinoff company Chemours agreed to pay nearly $671 million to settle 3,500 lawsuits filed in federal district courts over C8 contamination from its plant near Parkersburg. The lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict ligitation, also known as MDL, before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr., chief of the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus. The idea is that after a few test cases are resolved, the remaining plaintiffs might decide to settle, withdraw their cases or continue to trial.

Most of the lawsuits involved Mid-Ohio Valley residents who said they developed cancer and other ailments by drinking water contaminated with C8 dumped by DuPont in the Ohio River and spewed from its smokestacks.

The company also paid a $16.5 million fine in 2005 for hiding from the public for decades that C8 was toxic and a possible human carcinogen.

Robert Bilott, a Cincinnati lawyer involved in many of the individual suits, said litigation against DuPont is ongoing across the country.

“Litigation seems to be continuing,” he said. “(Thursday’s) complaint reflects recognition by the state of Ohio that these particular materials present a risk and they should be addressed properly.”

In January, the U.S.…

February 12, 2018

Storage Tank Spills At Least 1K Gallons of Oil Into North Carolina River

Read here about this oil spill into the North Carolina River.…

February 9, 2018

South Africa gold miners seen close to silicosis lawsuit settlement

Source: https://af.reuters.com, February 7, 2018
By: Ed Stoddard

A 9 billion rand ($755 million) class action suit brought against gold producers in South Africa by miners suffering from fatal lung disease is likely to be settled “within months”, the chair of an industry group said on Wednesday.

The suit was launched almost six years ago on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis, a fatal lung disease contacted by inhaling silica dust in gold mines.

Almost all of the claimants are black miners from South Africa and neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, whom critics say were not provided with adequate protection during and even after apartheid rule ended in 1994.

”“Within a few months we should have a deal … There’s been great progress,” Graham Briggs, chair of the Working Group on Occupational Lung Disease, told Reuters ahead of a presentation on the topic he was to give at the Mining Indaba 2018 conference in Cape Town.…

February 8, 2018

Identifying and managing pollution-related exposures

Source: http://www.propertycasualty360.com, February 8, 2018
By: Brian Heun

Consider this five-step program to help companies identify and remediate pollution hazards.

In a perfect world, claims managers would be able to check the “yes” box each time an insured submits a claim.

Of course, in order for them to do so, the insured must have coverage for the exposure. This is just one of the reasons claims managers must have a seat at the table where policies are written.

 By knowing what waits at the end of the road, they can help inform those who plan the trip.

Step 1: Identify pollution hazards.

This first step involves taking a walk around the workplace to identify trouble spots. Ask employees to list hazards through face-to-face meetings or anonymous suggestion boxes; hold staff workshops, have discussions with peers at professional association meetings and conferences; become familiar with key links in the supply chain; read trade publications and hire a professional risk expert.…

February 7, 2018

Desire To Protect Assets Drives CPL Buyers

Source: https://www.irmi.com, February 2018
By: Jeff Slivka

The American Institute of Architects Consensus Construction Forecast recently predicted a 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in 2018 nonresidential building activities. This includes a slight uptick in the commercial and institutional sectors, and a whopping 11 percent increase in industrial facility construction.

Unfortunately, this growth accompanies a wide breadth of environmental concerns. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US construction industry accounts for 160 million tons, or 25 percent, of nonindustrial waste generation a year. In addition, the agency has also reported that the tools and resources regularly used on job sites can significantly “harm public health and the environment.”

New Standards and Insurance Specifications

New legislation that is expected to impact these statistics even further surrounds the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) silica rule or standard that came into effect this year. Under the new standard, construction firms will be required to further reduce worker exposure to crystalline silica, including written control/management plans, medical exams, and training. With the absence of silica coverage under a commercial contractor’s general liability insurance policy, both contractors and owners will need to look to the contractors pollution liability (CPL) policies to protect themselves from the potential risks associated with this expanding issue.…

February 2, 2018

Keystone School Board sues contractors, insurance companies over building ‘defects’

Source: http://www.morningjournal.com, February 1, 2018
By: Keith Reynolds

The Keystone School Board is suing multiple contractors, claiming breach of contract in connection with the construction of Keystone High School and Keystone Middle School.

In a pair of lawsuits filed Jan. 29 in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, Northern Valley Contractors Inc. of North Canton and its bonding agent Ohio Farmers Insurance Co.Fortney & Weygandt Inc. of North Olmsted and its bonding agent Federal Insurance Co.; RFC Contracting LLC of Cleveland and its bonding agent Western Surety Co.; Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland; and FMD Architectsare named as defendants.

The filings allege the contractors and FMD architects failed to uphold the terms of their contracts with the district to provide various services in the construction of the two schools.

It seeks to make claims on the bonds provided by the insurance companies.

In the case of the Middle School, 501 Opportunity Way in LaGrange, the district claims it entered into an agreement with the now-defunct Giambrone Masonry Inc. in 2011 to provide masonry work for the project.

That contract was bonded and a bid guaranty was provided by Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, the suit says.…

February 2, 2018

2017 Construction Industry Silica Standards Are Here to Stay

Source: https://www.lexology.com, January 24, 2018
By: Smith Currie & Hancock

In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published its final rule lowering the permissible silica exposure level (“PEL”) from 250 µg/m3 to 50 µg/m3. In response, OSHA received petitions from both a collection of industry petitioners (“Industry”) arguing that OSHA made the regulation too stringent and several union petitions (“Unions”) arguing that OSHA failed to make the regulation stringent enough to protect workers. On December 22, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected all of the industry’s challenges to the regulation. See N. Am.’s Bldg. Trades Unions v. Occupational Safety & Health Admin., No. 16-1105, 2017 WL 6543858 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 22, 2017). The court further held that OSHA failed to adequately explain its decision to omit medical removal protections from the regulation and remanded the issues for further consideration.

At the forefront of the court’s opinion, it outlines 29 U.S.C. §655(f), “the substantial evidence standard”, under which OSHA only needed to provide substantial evidence to uphold the requisite threshold finding of a significant risk of material health impairment that will be reduced by the new PEL (50 µg/m3). Under this standard, while OSHA must rely upon a “body of reputable scientific thought” when assessing risk, it is not required to “calculate the exact probability of harm” or support its findings with anything approaching scientific certainty.” [pg 8]. “OSHA is not precluded from relying on imperfect evidence so long as it ‘recognize[s] and account[s] for the methodological weaknesses’ of the evidence.” [pg 14]. The basis of the court’s holding is that the Industry failed to demonstrate how OSHA failed to meet its substantial evidentiary burden.…

February 2, 2018

EPA announces $236M plan to clean up suburban St. Louis landfill

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com, February 1, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a $236 million plan to clean up a suburban St. Louis landfill where Cold War-era nuclear waste was illegally dumped decades ago. The EPA said Thursday the plan calls for removing all of the radioactive contamination that poses a health risk by partially excavating the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton.

Crews will also install a permanent “engineered cover system” at the site to ensure long-term protection of the five-year project, according to CBS St. Louis.

The site was added to the Superfund list in 1990. The area is especially concerning to nearby residents because it sits next to another landfill where an underground fire smolders. State and federal officials have downplayed the risk that the smoldering could reach the radioactive material.

Republic Services owns the landfill.…

February 2, 2018

NY state to assess contamination at Rosendale site of former dry cleaner

Source: http://www.dailyfreeman.com, February 1, 2018
By: William J. Kemble

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will review what steps might be necessary to remove contamination at the site for a former dry cleaner on state Route 32.

The department said in a written statement that the 1.94-acre property at 1090-1094 Route 32 is above a groundwater source that is between 8 and 19 feet below the surface.

The contamination, however, does not raise the risk of drinking water being contaminated “because the area is served by public water,” the department said.

Also, it said, “contact with soil contamination is unlikely since a majority of the site is covered by buildings and pavement.”

The site, owned by Aero Star Petroleum, has a 15,000-square-foot building on it that the state says is used for storage. There also is a mound of soil and debris, which the state says has the highest concentrations of the contamination. The debris is the result of the demolition of other buildings on the site that were part of a small plaza.…