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 1, 2017

Flood of pollution lawsuits begins

Source: Grand Rapids Press (MI), November 30, 2017
Posted on:

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.…

November 29, 2017

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

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, November 28, 2017
Posted on:

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
Posted on:

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 21, 2017

Lawsuit alleges tainted water caused cancer

Source: Decatur Daily (AL), November 19, 2017
Posted on:

Alleging exposure to toxic chemicals in their drinking water caused cancer and other health problems, 24 area residents have filed a federal lawsuit against three companies and a local utility.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions related to the industrial chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) in the Tennessee River.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory indicating that even trace amounts of the two chemicals in drinking water — as little as 70 parts per trillion over a lifetime of exposure — presented potential health risks, including certain types of cancer, thyroid problems, and immune system effects.

Defendants named in the suit include the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority, which issued a temporary no-drink warning last year when levels of the two chemicals rose above EPA recommendations.

The utility since has installed a temporary filtration system to remove the chemicals.

Other defendants include 3M Co., its subsidiary Dyneon LLC, and Daikin America Inc., all of which have used the now-discontinued chemicals at their plants in Decatur.…

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
Posted on:

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 .…