News and Views

March 19, 2018

3 wastewater treatment plants offline with $1M in damages caused by Harvey

Source:, November 14, 2017
By: Alex Stuckey

More than two months after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area, three wastewater treatment facilities in Harris County remain inoperable with more than $1 million in damages, as officials struggle to find solutions to get them back online.

The heavily damaged Cedar Bayou Park Wastewater Treatment plant – which processes sewage from 180 homes in a small Baytown subdivision – may never be reopened.

“The plant is completely destroyed,” said Jerald Landis, superintendent of municipal services for the Gulf Coast Authority, which operates the plant.

Two other facilities – the wastewater facility in Bear Creek Pioneers Park and the U.S. Eco Park near the San Jacinto River – are expected to remain inoperable for weeks or months before they can resume processing sewage and industrial discharges.

Additionally, there are 14 other wastewater facilities in the state still operating with problems stemming from Harvey as of Nov. 3, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The storm’s destruction on the wastewater facilities caused about 149 million gallons of raw sewage and industrial discharges – including about 300,000 gallons at Cedar Bayou Park – to pour into neighboring communities and waterways, leaving operating officials scrambling to find temporary solutions while they tackled the major problems.…

March 16, 2018

New Jersey settles three MTBE pollution claims

Source:, March 14, 2018

Three petroleum giants have agreed to pay the state of New Jersey $196.5 million to resolve their liability in a pollution case caused by a gasoline additive known as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), Kallanish Energy reports.

Sunoco has already paid New Jersey $64 million to resolve its liability for MTBE damages.

BP has agreed in a separate settlement to pay $64 million. It has paid $32 million to New Jersey. The deal covers BP America, BP Amoco Chemical, BP Corporation North America, BP Products North America and Atlantic Richfield.

Shell has agreed to pay $68.5 million. That deal covers Equilon Enterprises, Motiva Enterprises, Shell Oil Co., Shell Oil Products and Shell Trading (U.S.) Co.

Notice of the three proposed settlements was previously published in the New Jersey Register, said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, in a statement released Monday.

The settlements were subject to a public comment period and have been approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“These are important legal settlements on behalf of New Jersey citizens, not only in terms of dollars but in terms of sending a message that we are committed to working with the Department of Environmental Protection to protect our state’s natural resources and hold accountable companies that pollute,” Grewal said.

Sunoco, BP and Shell were among nearly 50 petroleum refiners, distributors and sellers of gasoline that were named in a 2007 lawsuit in which New Jersey sued for groundwater pollution from MTBE usage. The state said MTBE was detected in groundwater at sites across the state.

With the new agreements, New Jersey had reached settlements totaling $350 million in the case.…

March 15, 2018


Source:, March 13, 2018
By: Tom Johnson

Natural-resources damage suit involves three oil companies who contaminated groundwater with potentially carcinogenic gasoline additive

The Murphy administration yesterday said it has settled cases with three oil companies who have agreed to pay nearly $200 million for polluting water with a potential human carcinogen.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced approval of draft settlements reached by the Christie administration to resolve natural-resources damage lawsuits against the three defendants involving contamination of groundwater with an additive to gasoline.

The cases involve a decade-old lawsuit filed against nearly 50 companies alleging they were responsible for polluting state waters with the gasoline additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). The state Department of Environmental Protection has found the potential human carcinogen at over 6,000 sites.

March 15, 2018

The Wharf’s general contractor sues project’s lead architecture firm for $5M

Source:, March 13, 2018
By: Michelle Goldchain

Clark Construction’s lawsuit alleges that Perkins Eastman made significant errors and omissions in its design documents

The first phase of the $2 billion, 24-acre mixed-use project in Washington, D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront, known as The Wharf, may be finished, but the general contractor still has a bone to pick with the lead architect of the project. Clark Construction has filed a lawsuit against The Wharf’s master planner and architect Perkins Eastman and is seeking $5 million in damages, as reported by Bisnow.

According to the lawsuit, “Between approximately May 2014 and September 2015, Perkins supplied design packages of various completion and detail levels to Clark Construction … As construction proceeded, Clark Construction incurred significant damages as a result of errors and omissions by Perkins in the performance of its professional services in connection with the Design Agreements and the Project.”

The more than 10 alleged errors and omissions cited by the lawsuit include exterior retail doors that were inoperable, structural beams that required modifications, and structural columns that did not accommodate the architectural layouts and conflicted with other building components and finishes, such as walls, doors, and cabinets. The lawsuit further alleges that there may be additional problems down the road when the project’s second phase begins later this year.

Clark Construction is the same contractor behind the the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Museum of the Bible, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

Additional past projects in Washington, D.C., completed by Perkins Eastman include Dunbar High Schooland the Deanwood Community Center and Library.…

March 9, 2018

Cleanup officials say Whittaker-Bermite to be cleared by year’s end

Source:, March 9, 2018
By: Perry Smith

The cleanup of close to 1,000 acres of contaminated soil at Whittaker-Bermite is still on track to wrap up by year’s end, with just a dozen isolated pockets needing particular attention, according to the cleanup efforts’ engineers.

“I am very happy to tell you that by the end of the year we will be done,” Hassan Amini, project manager with the cleanup firm GSI Environmental, told the stakeholders and about a dozen citizens.

The Whittaker-Bermite Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force Meeting gave the update at Santa Clarita City Hall this week regarding the 996 acres near the center of Santa Clarita.

One particular area in the center of the  Whittaker-Bermite map was described as the most contaminated spot on the site — Area 14, or as it’s called by workers, “Burn Valley.”

Over more than a half-century, “Burn Valley” became the area where the most harmful chemicals were dumped, officials said.…

March 9, 2018

Home Depot To Pay $28M For Hazardous Waste, Privacy Violations

Source:, March 8, 2018

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and other prosecutors announced today that a judge has ordered Home Depot USA to pay $27.84 million for unlawfully disposing hazardous wastes.

The settlement, which was ordered by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman, also resolves allegations that Home Depot, which is based in Atlanta, discarded records without rendering private customer information unreadable.

“Today’s settlement marks a victory for both environmental and consumer protection throughout California,” O’Malley said in a statement.

California Gov. Jerry Brown denounced U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for coming to the state to speak about a lawsuit targeting policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, saying Wednesday it was unprecedented for him to “act more like Fox News than a law enforcement officer.” Shortly after Sessions spoke Wednesday morning in Sacramento to law enforcement officials at a conference, Brown accused Sessions of lying and trying to appease President Donald Trump. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is up for election in November, said sanctuary policies increase public safety by promoting trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, while allowing police resources to be used to fight other crimes. “We’re in the business of public safety, not deportation,” he said.

“My office works tirelessly to investigate and prosecute companies large and small that endanger our precious resources by illegally disposing of hazardous waste. We also strive to ensure that consumers’ privacy and security is maintained and protected,” O’Malley said.

March 9, 2018

Train Hits Truck Carrying Hydrochloric Acid; 15 Evacuated

Read here about a tractor trailer accident in western Pennsylvania that involved a spill of the hydrochloric acid.…

March 6, 2018

EPA to implement cleanup plan near Roosevelt Field Mall

Source:, March 5, 2018
By: Angelique D’Allessandro

The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing a cleanup plan to decontaminate groundwater in old Roosevelt Field, officials said.

The project is estimated to cost $13.5 million and was put into place after groundwater tested positive for potentially harmful chemicals, such as tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene. Both chemicals have been linked to cancer and other health issues, officials said.

“Once design work is completed, it will take up to two years to construct the groundwater extraction and treatment system, and then up to 35 years to achieve groundwater cleanup goals,” Elias Rodriguez, EPA public information officer, said.

The area is currently the site of the Roosevelt Field mall and other commercial buildings. A public meeting is scheduled Wednesday to discuss the plan.

The site of the contamination was a military airfield during the early 1900s and served as a commercial airport until 1951. According to officials, the chemicals detected in the groundwater had been used for airline maintenance and aircraft manufacturing, and could pose health risks to residents if ingested or inhaled, but that is unlikely because that groundwater is not part of the public water supply

After initially installing an “air stripping” treatment to remove harmful chemicals in 1987, the water was tested over time to track and monitor changes. Despite efforts at decontamination, the groundwater still tested positive for the harmful substances, EPA officials said, prompting a new cleanup plan.

The preferred method for cleanup proposed by the EPA includes extraction of groundwater and treatment of the contaminated water to remove chemicals. According to Rodriguez, this method “is a proven technology. We are currently using this technology to address groundwater contamination at another area of the site.”

Although Rodriguez says the cleanup requires “access to install extraction wells, construct a treatment plant, and discharge the treated water to a recharge basin,” he said this method would be the least disruptive to local residents and businesses.

After the initial implementation of the cleanup, groundwater will continue to be tested by the EPA.

The most recent water testing in this area took place in November 2017, and results have not yet been released. A public meeting to discuss this project will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Garden City Village Hall. Public comments on the cleanup plan can be sent to Sherrel Henry, EPA Remedial Project Manager, 290 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10007, through March 26.…

March 1, 2018

Stanford sues HP companies, Agilent over toxic contamination

Source:, March 1, 2018
By: Sue Dremann

Stanford University officials have filed a federal lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard Company and its successors Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HP Inc., and Agilent Technologies for years of contamination of its property with hazardous PCBs and TCE, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, in San Jose.

The board of trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University filed the multimillion-dollar lawsuit, which does not specify a dollar amount, on Feb 23. It alleges that Hewlett-Packard Company contaminated Stanford’s property at 1601 S. California Ave. over a 35-year period beginning in 1970.

Hewlett-Packard Company, which occupied the property from 1970-2005, allegedly caused polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichloroethylene (TCE) to be discharged over the property. It further spread PCBs over substantial portions of the property during a 1987 grading and construction project, the lawsuit claims.

Stanford discovered the contamination in 2015 when it began construction of its University Terrace faculty-housing project. The university halted development while it cleaned up the hazardous soil and developed a plan to shield its new multimillion-dollar homes from vapors emanating from the soil’s remaining TCE, which could not be effectively removed.

Stanford spent millions of dollars on cleanup and remediation to make the site safe for housing and had to obtain a finding from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control that there is no significant risk to future residents after it added the remediation, the lawsuit noted. TCE vapors have also been identified under some homes in the adjacent College Terrace neighborhood, some residents found after hiring their own consultant. That issue is not mentioned in the lawsuit.…

February 28, 2018

Court affirms Conrail not entitled to pollution coverage

Source:, February 27, 2018
By: Judy Greenwald

A Pennsylvania state appeals court has affirmed a lower court ruling and held the Consolidated Rail Corp. is not entitled to pollution coverage under policies issued by a Berkshire Hathaway Group unit and Continental Insurance Co.

The ruling by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg in Consolidated Rail Corp. v. ACE Property & Casualty Insurance Co. is the latest in a long-running pollution liability case that originally involved 55 insurers, according to Monday’s ruling.

The case involved efforts by Philadelphia-based Consolidated Rail, commonly referred to as Conrail, to obtain indemnification for contamination remediation, cleanup costs and other expenses related to toxic spills and releases at various geographic sites, according to the ruling.

“Conrail argues the insurance policy language is ambiguous and can be reasonably read to provide coverage for Conrail’s liability for pre-existing contamination, regardless of whether Conrail actively contributed to that contamination.”

The appeals court upheld a ruling by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in Philadelphia in favor of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway unit Stonewall Insurance Co. and Columbus, Ohio-based Continental Insurance Co.

“The court determined that the insurance policy required the insurers to reimburse Conrail only for the damages arising out of an ‘occurrence’ (i.e., environmental contamination) that was caused by or grew out of Conrail’s operations at the time,” said the ruling.

“In other words, the policies provided coverage to Conrail only if Conrail could prove it had discharged some of the pollutants during the policy terms for which it had incurred liability,” said the ruling.

The lower court determined facts for some of the sites insured by Continental, and for the site Stonewall insured, indicated that pollutants had been discharged before Contrail took over operations, it said.

“We see no reason to disrupt the court’s sound analysis regarding the interpretation of the insurance policy language and the application of the language to the sites, in question,” said the ruling.…