Sheryl Barr

December 15, 2017

Feds reach $4.5 million settlement in Sheboygan River pollution case

Source:, December 15, 2017

According to the federal government, three companies are liable pollution found in the Sheboygan River.

The United States and the State of Wisconsin announced this week that three settlements totaling in excess of $4.5 million with Tecumseh Products Co., Thomas Industries, Inc., and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. to resolve claims for natural resource damages at the Sheboygan River & Harbor Superfund Site brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund Law.

The Sheboygan River Site encompasses the lower 14 river miles of the Sheboygan River, from Sheboygan Falls downstream to and including the Sheboygan Harbor in Lake Michigan, as well as adjoining floodplain areas.

According to the complaint, filed simultaneously with the settlement today in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the three companies are liable for historic industrial discharges of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at the Sheboygan River Site. PCBs and PAHs were identified in river sediments at different locations throughout the Site in sufficient concentrations to cause injury to many types of natural resources, including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals. In addition, PCB and PAH-contaminated natural resources resulted in the loss of recreational fishing services.…

December 8, 2017

The Impending Expansion of Interim Owner Environmental Liability

Source:, December 8, 2017
By: Matthew A. Karmel

The logical application of the Spill Act may suggest that the liability it imposes on someone who “owns” real property may extend to an interim owner that fails to qualify as an innocent purchaser.

environmental contamination industrial pollutionA prior owner of environmentally contaminated real property may soon face liability under New Jersey law for historical contamination which it did not contribute to or cause. New Jersey courts previously seemed to agree that the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act) exempted a prior owner of contaminated property from liability for hazardous substances that were discharged on its property before its ownership, unless the prior owner caused or contributed to the contamination. See, e.g., White Oak Funding v. Winning, 341 N.J. Super. 294, 300-01 (App. Div.), certif. denied 170 N.J. 209 (2001). A prior owner that did not cause or contribute to contamination is often referred to as an “interim owner” because it purchased the property after the discharge of contamination took place thereon and has since sold the property to a new owner.…

December 7, 2017

West Hartford Council Members Recommend Terminating Purchase Of UConn Property

Source:, December 7, 2017
By: Nicholas Rondinone and Mikaela Porter

Citing costs to clear environmental damage and other potential liabilities, a West Hartford town council subcommittee is recommending the town terminate the purchase of the UConn property, council member Dallas Dodge said Thursday morning.

Town officials notified the university of the subcommittee’s recommendation in a meeting Tuesday, Town Manager Matthew W. Hart said. The recommendation from the bipartisan subcommittee on economic development was expected to be supported by the council when it is voted on next week.

In September, UConn and West Hartford town officials had agreed to a seventh extension before finalizing a $1 million purchase and sale agreement of the 58-acre campus in the area of Asylum Avenue and Trout Brook Drive.

UConn opened its downtown campus in August leaving the West Hartford campus “virtually vacant,” according to Orr’s letter.

The parties had agreed to a Dec. 15 deadline, according to a letter to West Hartford Town Manager Matthew W. Hart from Richard Orr, UConn vice president and general counsel.…

December 4, 2017

Polluted soil is being removed from this Fort Worth park, a decade after it was discovered

Source:, December 4, 2017
By: Sandra Baker

Soil containing arsenic and another known cancer-causing chemical in Greenbriar Park is being removed more than a decade after the contamination was discovered.

Crews are getting two sites in the south Fort Worth park ready for the removal of about 6,000 cubic yards of dirt that contain low levels of arsenic and a hydrocarbon used as a base for coatings and paint, in roofing and paving, and as a binder in asphalt products.

Although a 2005 report by environmental consultants concluded the “risk to human health is minimal and no further action should be necessary,” the city has changed course and will now remove the soil.

The remediation is being triggered by a Parks Department expansion of its service center on James Avenue, on the park’s west side. The expansion will take in about 4.5-acres of the park.

“It became an important project, but it wasn’t necessarily urgent,” said Cody Whittenburg, Fort Worth’s environmental manager. “We’re now close to getting rid of it.”

Greenbriar Park, a 49-acre park about four miles south of downtown, will not be closed while the work is being done.…

December 1, 2017

Flood of pollution lawsuits begins

Source: Grand Rapids Press (MI), November 30, 2017
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The first of what’s expected to be many lawsuits has been filed against Wolverine World Wide, alleging the company turned a blind eye to an old toxic dump that has subsequently made people sick and hurt property values.

Three complaints were filed against the company in Kent County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Nov. 28 and attorneys representing homeowners with drinking water contaminated by Wolverine’s tannery waste chemicals say there are more to come.

The first plaintiffs to file against Wolverine are Theodore Ryfiak, Melvin and Marlene Nylaan, and Michael and Laura Metz, all of Belmont. Each are seeking a jury trial.

Aaron Phelps, a partner at Varnum Law, said the firm anticipates filing more than 50 similar cases against Wolverine in the coming weeks.

Varnum represents more than 120 clients so far affected by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances named PFAS (or PFCs) in 3M Scotchgard that Wolverine used for decades to make Hush Puppies shoes at the former Rockford tannery.

Detroit and Chicago area firms are also signing local clients.…

December 1, 2017

Keven Moore: Legionnaires’ Disease liability requires extra protection against potential, big losses

Source:, November 30, 2017

In an earlier column, I stressed the frequency that Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks still occur some 41 years later after 221 people were hospitalized and 34 people died from an outbreak that occurred at a Philadelphia convention for the American Legion; where the Legionella bacterium earned its name.

This week I decided to emphasize the degree of risk that this disease poses for business owners, corporations and property owners.

When people are infected with Legionnaires’ disease from an establishment, property owners, its owners and/or operators can and will be held liable for victims’ physical and financial suffering.

Nearly 6,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease are reported annually and more than 10% of victims die in the United States alone; It is under-diagnosed, so the risk is very real. According to a Washington Post article last year, cases of Legionnaires’ disease nearly quadrupled in the United States over a 15-year period.

Many business owners, operators and property owners incorrectly presume that their general liability (GL) insurance will cover claims from pollutants and bacteria, such as legionella, mold, fungus, cleaning products, asbestos, lead paint and carbon monoxide.…

December 1, 2017

Legionnaire’s at Illinois Veterans Home

Read here about the third person at an Illinois veterans home who has recently contracted Legionnaires’ disease.…

November 29, 2017

Wisconsin settles longstanding Madison-Kipp pollution case with $350,000 fine

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, November 28, 2017
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The Wisconsin Department of Justice has settled a 2012 lawsuit it filed over soil and ground water pollution from the Madison-Kipp Corp. plant with a $350,000 fine.

The settlement also requires the company to provide financial assurances of up to $1.65 million related to remaining pollutants.

Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess signed the settlement document on Monday.

The state sued the aluminum die-casting company over PCBs and PCE under and around its Waubesa Street plant. Since then, the company has spent millions of dollars removing more than 50 tons of tainted soil and treating contaminated ground water, but the toxins remain in significant quantities.

PCE is the term used for tetrachloroethylene, an industrial grease-cutter that is a likely human carcinogen and is believed to cause other serious health problems. PCBs are polychlorinated biphenyls, a family of heat-resistant industrial lubricants that probably cause cancer in humans and a variety of other serious health effects in animals.

Madison-Kipp president and CEO Tony Koblinski didn’t respond to a request for comment. In the past, Koblinski has emphasized that the pollution occurred long ago before the dangers of those compounds were known.…

November 28, 2017

Minnesota AG’s lawsuit asks: What did 3M know about PFCs?

Source: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), November 27, 2017
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Gary Paulson has always wished he knew more about the toxic chemicals that once leached into his well from a landfill 1,000 feet from his Lake Elmo home.

At 71, he has survived four bouts of cancer and mused often about neighbors who also fell ill over the years. “Thank God Karen is OK,” he said of his wife.

Paulson and other east metro residents from Woodbury to St. Paul Park, who for decades have lived with contaminated drinking water, are being swept up in what may prove to be the final reckoning between the state of Minnesota and one of its oldest, most esteemed corporations.

Unlike the residents, 3M Co. knew a great deal about those chemicals, it turns out. They’re compounds it manufactured and dumped at several sites around Washington County, according to documents filed last week in a lawsuit by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

A stark report from a Harvard University researcher hired by Swanson concludes that 3M knew about the chemicals’ possible health risks as early as the 1970s, and purposely avoided doing the research that would have provided the state and the company’s neighbors with more information about them.…

November 27, 2017

As teams and contractor clash, work still not done at new ballpark

Source:, November 22, 2017
By: Joe Capozzi

When players and staff for the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals first arrived at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in February, they were asked to be patient: Their new $152 million shared spring training complex in West Palm Beach wasn’t quite finished.

What they may not have known was that a lot of the work hadn’t been done properly, the result of corners cut by work crews under extraordinary pressure to open on time, a Palm Beach Post review of internal emails, city inspection records and court documents found.

Although players and staff never complained, at least not publicly, the shoddy work forced them to deal with a roster of minor inconveniences: Large buckets strategically placed in the Astros clubhouse to collect water leaking from the newly installed roof and windows, pooling water from an improperly sloped shower, and ripples in the Astro Turf floor in the batting cages, to name a few.

In December, about two months before the first game, both teams briefly considered delaying the ballpark’s opening until 2018 after West Palm Beach building inspectors flagged the concrete stadium seating bowl for failing to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.…