Sheryl Barr

January 19, 2018

San Jose Land Slated For High Rise is Contaminated: Lawsuit

Source:, January 18, 2018
By: Damian Trujillo

San Jose city leaders are targeting a vacant lot near City Hall for development of a high rise, but critics say the land is contaminated with at least one toxic chemical, and they’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure it’s cleaned up.

The site on Fourth and Saint John streets in downtown San Jose is prime real estate. Officials envision a building that would add hundreds of units to the student housing demand at San Jose State University.

But critics say something scary resides underneath: cancer causing chemicals.

Attorney Tanya Gulesserian says there’s “a leaking underground storage tank, which caused contamination on the property site” that once featured a gas station.

A group of union workers released a Santa Clara County document from 2006 that states the land is contaminated with benzene, a carcinogen. They filed a lawsuit, demanding all construction plans stop until adequate testing is conducted.

“Require the city to disclose, analyze and mitigate potentially significant impacts so this site can be safely developed,” Gulesserian said during a news conference Thursday.

The lawsuit says the city read the county report but ruled that re-zoning the property for joint commercial and residential use would result in no significant impact. The city attorney’s office said the project isn’t ready for an environmental impact report, but one will be conducted at the appropriate time.

Paul Oller is a plaintiff in the suit, as a neighbor of the property and retired union plumber.

“This is very personal to me,” Oller said. “I mean, it’s a nasty place. When you break the blacktop up, you have some serious dirt underneath there.”

Oller says he doesn’t want bulldozers digging up the land that contains cancer causing chemicals.

Critics say they’re not against the development; they just want scientific proof that the land is safe before the bulldozers arrive.…

January 15, 2018

Modesto said chemical companies knew the groundwater was poisoned, so the city sued

Source: Modesto Bee (CA), January 14, 2018
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In a ruling with implications for cities across the United States, appellate justices this week rejected Modesto’s request to reinstate a $75 million judgment against a producer of toxic dry cleaning chemicals. However, the ruling also paves the way for a new trial under conditions favorable to Modesto.

City Attorney Adam Lindgren called the decision “a major victory for the city of Modesto in its long-running efforts and battle” against Dow Chemical Co. Dow claimed partial victory as well, and will consider appealing portions favoring Modesto, a company spokesman said Friday.

The ruling, dated Monday, is the latest in a legal war stretching two decades over who should be responsible for a chemical that polluted soil and groundwater under several dry cleaners sprinkled throughout Modesto.

“This case has followed a complex and tortuous path,” acknowledged First Appellate District justices Maria Rivera, Ignazio Ruvolo and Jon Streeter, in the ruling.

Modesto drinking water is safe, officials have said throughout the years, but capturing the toxic chemical in soil vapor and keeping it from reaching the aquifer is expensive.…

January 10, 2018

Officials identify source of Citico Creek spill, continue cleanup

Source:, January 10, 2018

Officials identified Norfolk Southern as the source of the fuel spill that emptied more than 1,000 gallons of petroleum into Citico Creek near the mouth of the Tennessee River Monday night.

“The spill originated from DeButts Yard and Norfolk Southern has taken responsibility for the spill and has assured city, state and federal authorities this afternoon that it is making every effort to minimize the impact on Citico Creek and the Tennessee River,” Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner said in an email.

The spill could be seen and smelled Monday from the Walnut Street Bridge, according to NewsChannel 9.

Norfolk Southern, which is a transportation company that operates railways, has hired several “environmental remediation companies” to do the cleanup work, which is expected to take several days, he also said.…

January 5, 2018

Honeywell to pay $9.5 million for restoration

Source: Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), December 25, 2017
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After decades of pollution that turned Onondaga Lake into a toxic cesspool, Honeywell has agreed to pay $9.5 million in damages and build 20 restoration projects.

The federal Department of Justice filed documents in federal court Wednesday, but the settlement was not announced until after 5 p.m. Friday of the weekend leading into Christmas.

The settlement requires Honeywell to build projects that include trail extensions, habitats for fish and birds, and fishing piers. It ends the decades-long battle to get Honeywell to clean up and restore the damage done to the environment by decades of industrial pollution.

“With this proposed settlement, the communities of Onondaga Lake are one step closer to reclaiming this resource for the people and wildlife that live here,” said David Stilwell, New York field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a news release issued by the state. “These funds would support both habitat restoration and protection for the benefit of fish and wildlife, as well as improved opportunities for people to enjoy Onondaga Lake.”…

January 5, 2018

District of New Hampshire Declines to Dismiss PFA-Related Property Damage Claims; Undecided on Medical Monitoring Damages

Source:, December 21, 2017
By: Garrett D. Trego, Manko Gold Katcher & Fox

A putative class of plaintiffs who allege to have lived in a defined geographic area around a manufacturing plant in Merrimack, New Hampshire, or have been served by the town’s municipal water supply, sued the manufacturer in federal court, alleging property damage claims and exposure to perfluorooctanoate (AFPO) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that warrants medical monitoring. Brown v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. et al., No. 16-cv-242, 2017 WL 6043956 (D.N.H. Dec. 6, 2017). The plaintiffs’ claims were styled as common law claims for negligence, trespass, nuisance, and negligent failure to warn, as well as an equitable claim for “negative unjust enrichment” on the theory that the manufacturer was unjustly enriched by avoiding costs associated with preventing the release of contaminants. The Court dismissed the unjust enrichment count but allowed the remaining claims to proceed.

The defendant manufacturer’s motion to dismiss primarily targeted the plaintiffs’ damages claims. First, it argued that the allegations of property damage were nebulous and not concrete. Indeed, the plaintiffs alleged generally that PFOA particles contaminated the air, soil, dust, trees, groundwater, and household water systems and supply wells on the plaintiffs’ properties, but appear not to have made specific claims regarding the contamination identified at any plaintiff’s property. Ultimately, the court held that the complaint sufficiently pleaded diminution in property value damages to allow the common law tort claims to proceed. The court did not reach defendants’ argument that New Hampshire’s broad economic loss doctrine prevented recovery of any consequential economic damages beyond diminution.…

January 5, 2018

Mariner East 2 construction has resulted in dozens of spills, documents show

Source:, July 19, 2017
By: Susan Phillips

Construction of Sunoco Pipeline’s $3 billion 350-mile long Mariner East 2 pipeline resulted in at least 61 drilling mud spills from April 25 through June 17, 2017, according to newly released documents. The spills have occurred in ten of the 12 counties along the route and range from minor releases of five gallons to larger more serious releases of tens of thousands of gallons. The documents, pasted below, include reports of “inadvertent returns,” and were released by the Department of Environmental Protection as part of ongoing litigation by the Clean Air Council challenging the department’s issuing of water crossing permits for the project last February.

The Council wants the Environmental Hearing Board to suspend construction while its case is pending review, but has so far been unsuccessful.

The spills primarily contain bentonite, a muddy clay substance used as a lubricant in drilling beneath waterways during horizontal directional drilling. Bentonite is non-toxic but can do damage to drinking water wells by clogging up an aquifer. A recent incident in Chester County forced 15 families to switch to bottled water and the company has since agreed to pay to hook residents up to the public water supply after some resident’s water wells went dry, and others experienced cloudy water.…

January 5, 2018

Sunoco Working To Contain Spill Linked To Pipeline

Source:, July 18, 2017
By: Ian Bush

A week after Sunoco agreed to address concerns that its pipeline construction was tainting well water in one Chester County community, two new problems have cropped up — this time, in part of Media, Delaware County.

Its plastic barrier and hay bales, are no match for the deluge along Martins Lane and Glen Riddle Road in Middletown Township.

A spokesman for Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline calls it a “considerable amount of groundwater” pouring from the drill pad.

He notes no reports of problems with public or private water sources.

It’s the same spot that saw what the company calls “an inadvertent return of drilling mud” — a mixture of water and bentonite clay used to lubricate the underground horizontal boring equipment.

About 1,500 gallons spilled into Chester Creek. Crews worked to pump out that mud.

The state Department of Environmental Protection says there’s no health risk, no reported fish kills from the non-toxic mixture, and no expected long-term impact to the creek.…

January 5, 2018

Pennsylvania Shuts Down Construction On Sunoco Gas Pipeline

Source:, January 3, 2018
By: Jim Melwert

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has ordered all construction work to be halted on the $2.5 billion natural gas pipeline that runs from western Pennsylvania to Delaware County’s Marcus Hook.

A 24-page report from DEP cites numerous permit violations by Sunoco on the Mariner East 2 pipeline and suspends all construction permits until the company meets the requirements outlined in the order.

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell says in a press release, “Until Sunoco can demonstrate that the permit conditions can and will be followed, DEP has no alternative but to suspend the permits.”…

December 21, 2017

Park La Brea apartments loses $3.5-million bedbug lawsuit, lawyer says

Source:, December 17, 2017
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Sixteen former and current residents of one of Los Angeles’ largest apartment complexes have won a $3.5-million verdict over an infestation of bedbugs in their units, according to their lawyer.

Park La Brea Apartments, a sprawling complex with more than 4,000 units in the Miracle Mile District, was found liable by a jury in Los Angeles Superior Court late Friday afternoon, said attorney Brian Virag, who represented the plaintiffs.

A representative for Park La Brea Apartments could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The 16 renters who lived in eight separate units complained about the bedbugs from 2011 to 2013; Virag said management of the complex knew about the problem since 2008. Nearly all of the tenants have since moved out, he said.

“They failed to warn any of the tenants of the original problem,” said Virag, who specializes in bedbug problems at hotels and apartments.

Although the medical costs to treat the bedbug bites were only about $2,200, the attorney said the jury awarded the large sum due to the emotional distress caused.…

December 21, 2017

Framingham reaches $500K settlement with Eversource over polluted site

Source:, December 20, 2017
By: Jim Haddadin

Utility provider Eversource will pay the town $500,000 to settle claims it failed to clean up a polluted Southside property it acquired nearly a decade ago.

Selectmen voted during a closed-door meeting Tuesday to accept the company’s settlement offer, which also requires Eversource to clean up lingering pollution at 350 Irving St.

The site, a former gas manufacturing plant, is contaminated with toxic coal tar and other chemicals. Eversource purchased it in 2008, paying a little more than $2 million to acquire it under a tax title payment agreement with the town.

Town Meeting members and selectmen agreed at the time to forgive about $460,000 worth of interest and penalties owed to the town to facilitate the cleanup.

The town contends Eversource failed to meet deadlines for the cleanup. The state Department of Environmental Protection also released a critical audit in 2015, calling on Eversource to further investigate the extent of the contamination. The DEP required Eversource to take additional soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water samples and assess potential risks.…