AVX settles contamination lawsuit

Source: Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC), February 28, 2011
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

AVX Corp. on Monday reached a confidential settlement with an adjacent land owner over groundwater contamination near the manufacturer’s facility on 17th Avenue South in Myrtle Beach, bringing an end to a dispute that started in late 2007.

The settlement was announced during what would have been the fourth day of testimony in a jury trial over contamination discovered on property owned by Horry Land Co.

Neither AVX nor Horry Land would comment on the settlement agreement.

The trial will move into a second phase beginning Thursday, when Judge Terry Wooten will decide whether the U.S. military contributed to the groundwater contamination on Horry Land’s site.

AVX has admitted in contaminated Horry Land’s groundwater with trichloroethylene, a common degreaser in the 1960s and ’70s that now has been determined to cause cancer. AVX, however, says some of the contamination could have come from the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, which is located adjacent to the manufacturer. The military also used large amounts of trichloroethylene, or TCE, and there are several areas on the former base where groundwater is polluted by the chemical.

AVX did not present any witnesses or evidence in its trial with Horry Land. Testimony during the first three days included opinions by a pair of geologists who said the contamination on Horry Land’s property could only have come from AVX because surface water and groundwater from the base moves in opposite directions.

Horry Land also presented reports from AVX consultants that showed the manufacturer knew as early as 1981 that TCE contamination was migrating off its property and toward adjacent land owners. The company did not try to stop the migration and did not inform the adjoining land owners, city, state or federal officials about the problem.

Instead, AVX tried to secretly clean up the contamination on its own property for 14 years before reporting the contamination to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Dennis Oldland, the company’s environment and safety manager, said AVX reported the problem to DHEC because its cleanup efforts weren’t working.

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