Sheryl Barr

November 20, 2017

SC students say they lived in mold-infested dorms. Now, they’re suing their college

Source: State (Columbia, SC), November 19, 2017
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Morris College faces a $55 million lawsuit from a group of students over a mold infestation in campus dorms, according to multiple news reports.

The suit was filed this week by five current and former students — Teanna Caswell, Maya Robinson, Kiesha Robinson, Myrcle Fleming and Kianna Joint, The Sumter Item reported.

The plaintiffs say toxic mold is so severe that some students have been hospitalized and some have had to drop out of school for health reasons, WACH reported.

The plaintiffs are seeking $55 million in damages from the school, according to The Sumter Item.

Morris, a private, historically black college in Sumter, has five residential buildings on campus, according to WACH.

Students from two residence halls have been relocated due to mold, WACH reported.

The lawsuit claims that unsafe living conditions, including mold and other problems, were reported to the school’s administration four years ago but have gone unresolved, WACH reported.

Last month, several dozen students rallied at a local park to express their frustration over the campus mold problems, WLTX reported. They complained of mold beyond dorms: in the cafeteria, in hallways and in showers, according to WLTX.

At the time of the October student demonstration, the school’s interim president, Leroy Staggers, said the residence hall mold had only recently been reported to administration and that there were no documented complaints of mold in other areas of campus, WLTX reported.…

November 20, 2017

Keystone Pipeline Leaks 210K Gallons of Oil in South Dakota

Source:, November 16, 2017
Associated Press

TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil onto agricultural land in northeastern South Dakota , the company and state regulators said Thursday, but state officials don’t believe the leak polluted any surface water bodies or drinking water systems.

Crews shut down the pipeline Thursday morning and activated emergency response procedures after a drop in pressure was detected resulting from the leak south of a pump station in Marshall County , TransCanada said in a statement. The cause was being investigated.

Discovery of the leak comes just days before Nebraska regulators are scheduled to announce their decision Monday whether to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, an expansion that would boost the amount of oil TransCanada is now shipping through an existing line known simply as Keystone. The expansion has faced fierce opposition from environmental groups, American Indian tribes and some landowners.

Brian Walsh , an environmental scientist manager at the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources , said the state has sent a staff member to the site of the leak in a rural area near the border with North Dakota about 250 miles (402 kilometers) west of Minneapolis .…

November 16, 2017

U.S. Steel dumps more toxic chromium near Lake Michigan, faces lawsuit

Source: Chicago Tribune, November 15, 2017
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Six months after U.S. Steel dumped a plume of toxic metal into a Lake Michigan tributary, the company quietly reported another spill at the same northwest Indiana plant and asked state environmental regulators to keep it secret, according to newly released documents.

The 56.7 pounds of chromium released in late October by the company’s Midwest Plant was 89 percent higher than its water pollution permit allows over 24 hours, U.S. Steel revealed in a letter sent to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

A wastewater treatment system at the plant malfunctioned on the morning of Oct. 25, a problem that wasn’t noticed until the next day. Indiana officials were notified Oct. 27, according to the company’s letter, which is dated Oct. 31 and requested “confidential treatment” of the incident.

Law students at the University of Chicago discovered the letter while tracking pollution violations at U.S. Steel and other factories on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan. The document tops a stack of evidence gathered by attorneys at the university’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic for a lawsuit they are preparing that will accuse the Pittsburgh-based steel giant of repeatedly violating the federal Clean Water Act since 2011.…

November 16, 2017

7 cases of Legionnaires’ disease tied to Las Vegas’ Rio hotel

Source:, November 15, 2017
By: Jessie Bekker

The exterior of the Rio hotel-casino seen on Saturday, June 10, 2017 in Las Vegas. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas review-Journal)

The exterior of the Rio hotel-casino seen on Saturday, June 10, 2017 in Las Vegas. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas review-Journal)

Five months after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was reported at the Rio, the number of confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like bacterial illness among guests has risen to seven, with 29 more cases suspected, the Southern Nevada Health District said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, cleaning and testing of the hotel’s water system is continuing to ensure the disease has been eradicated.

That’s a normal timeline for a Legionnaires’ outbreak investigation, health experts say.

“In a situation like this, part of the process of these investigations on an environmental aspect is continued testing and monitoring,” said Robert Cole, the health district’s senior environmental health specialist.…

November 15, 2017

Watch for “Absolute Pollution” Clause

Source:, November 15, 2017
By: Tiffany Dowell Lashment

When a dairy finds itself a defendant in a lawsuit alleging groundwater contamination due to manure storage policies and application practices, likely one of the first calls made is to their insurance company. One dairy in Washington did just that, only to be told their insurer was denying coverage and indemnification because the claims against the dairy were excluded from coverage due to an “absolute pollution clause.”

In 2013, two non-profit environmental groups filed suit against a number of dairies in Washington around the handling of manure contaminated groundwater. Allegations concluded holding ponds resulted in seepage of manure into the underground aquifer, and the amount of manure applied to fields as fertilizer was excessive, causing seepage into the ground. Plaintiffs brought claims against the dairies under several federal regulations. Eventually, the parties settled the case.…

November 13, 2017

Toxic solvent from dry-cleaners found in Memphis Sand aquifer

Source:, November 12, 2017
By: Tom Charlier

Investigators at a Memphis hazardous waste site discovered “elevated levels” of a toxic dry-cleaning solvent in the aquifer supplying the city with drinking water, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman said.

The chemical – tetrachloroethylene, also known as perchloroethylene, or simply “perc” – was found 150 feet below ground in the Memphis Sand aquifer at the former Custom Cleaners site at 3517 Southern, near the University of Memphis campus, agency spokesman Jason McDonald said in an email.

A strata of saturated sand and gravel that’s 500 feet thick in many places, the Memphis Sand is an aquifer supplying Memphis and other local municipalities and industries with water renowned for its purity.…

November 13, 2017

Michigan maker of Hush Puppies called on its toxic past

Source:, November 11, 2017
By: Ted Roelofs

With the click of an email, the credibility of an iconic Michigan shoe company’s environmental practices has taken another hit.

Rockford-based Wolverine Worldwide Inc., best known for its Hush Puppies shoes, has been on the defensive this year over toxic chemicals that seeped from one of its former dumping sites into the drinking water in northern Kent County. The state has identified at least six other dump sites and says there may be as many as 15 more, sites Wolverine did not apparently test for groundwater contamination until April of this year.

In August, as residents near the site wondered whether the chemicals might be tied to cancer clusters and other health problems, the company put out a statement insisting it did not know until 2016 that waste from its former Rockford tannery carried hazardous chemicals, including a class of compounds known as perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS.

But that effort at corporate spin appears to have backfired.Late last week, a lawyer for St. Paul, Minn.-based 3M Co., which supplied the waterproofing material containing PFOS in Hush Puppies, disputed Wolverine’s suggestion that it had been left in the dark about PFOS and its dangers all these years.…

November 13, 2017

Disneyland shuts cooling towers after Legionnaires’ cases

Read here about Disneyland shutting down cooling towers after a dozen cases of Legionnaires were discovered after most of the patients had visited the park.…

November 13, 2017

UPDATE: Mountaire cited for contaminating groundwater

Source:, November 10, 2017
By: Maddy Lauria

Company must provide neighbors with clean water

State officials say Mountaire Farms’ Millsboro plant has been polluting groundwater and failing to comply with its state permit to dispose of wastewater on nearby farm fields.

Health risks because of the pollution require Mountaire to provide its immediate neighbors with bottled water or drinking water treatment. To date, state officials have imposed no fines.

Neighbors say they have not received bottled water or additional water treatment since it was required by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consent order in 2003.

On Nov. 2, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued a notice of violation to the poultry-processing plant after inspections found excess nitrate contamination in groundwater and monitoring wells. Bacteria found in the sprayed wastewater in August was measured at more than 5,000 times the permitted level.

Overexposure to nitrates can result in a blood disorder with symptoms including decreased blood pressure, increased heart rate, headaches, abdominal cramps, vomiting and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria found in sprayed wastewater is fecal coliform, which can cause gastrointestinal problems in humans.…

November 10, 2017

Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of insurer on ‘pollution exclusion’ in Peru mine claims

Source:, November 10, 2017
By: Sam Knef

The Missouri Supreme Court has sided with an insurer that appealed a judgment entered by a St. Louis County judge over pollution claims at a smelting facility in Peru that is owned by a company it covers.

In a unanimous opinion filed Oct. 31, the high court reversed St. Louis County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Prebil’s summary judgment in favor of Missouri-based Doe Run Resources Co., which had sued St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co. for reimbursement of defense costs.

Doe Run had faced a class action on behalf of plaintiffs who claimed injury from toxic pollution released from its metallurgical industrial complex in La Oroya, Peru, the opinion states. Doe Run produces lead and lead concentrate through its mining, milling and smelting operations.…