Claims – Pollution Legal Liability

March 15, 2018


Source:, March 13, 2018
By: Tom Johnson

Natural-resources damage suit involves three oil companies who contaminated groundwater with potentially carcinogenic gasoline additive

The Murphy administration yesterday said it has settled cases with three oil companies who have agreed to pay nearly $200 million for polluting water with a potential human carcinogen.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced approval of draft settlements reached by the Christie administration to resolve natural-resources damage lawsuits against the three defendants involving contamination of groundwater with an additive to gasoline.

The cases involve a decade-old lawsuit filed against nearly 50 companies alleging they were responsible for polluting state waters with the gasoline additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). The state Department of Environmental Protection has found the potential human carcinogen at over 6,000 sites.

February 28, 2018

Court affirms Conrail not entitled to pollution coverage

Source:, February 27, 2018
By: Judy Greenwald

A Pennsylvania state appeals court has affirmed a lower court ruling and held the Consolidated Rail Corp. is not entitled to pollution coverage under policies issued by a Berkshire Hathaway Group unit and Continental Insurance Co.

The ruling by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg in Consolidated Rail Corp. v. ACE Property & Casualty Insurance Co. is the latest in a long-running pollution liability case that originally involved 55 insurers, according to Monday’s ruling.

The case involved efforts by Philadelphia-based Consolidated Rail, commonly referred to as Conrail, to obtain indemnification for contamination remediation, cleanup costs and other expenses related to toxic spills and releases at various geographic sites, according to the ruling.

“Conrail argues the insurance policy language is ambiguous and can be reasonably read to provide coverage for Conrail’s liability for pre-existing contamination, regardless of whether Conrail actively contributed to that contamination.”

The appeals court upheld a ruling by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in Philadelphia in favor of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway unit Stonewall Insurance Co. and Columbus, Ohio-based Continental Insurance Co.

“The court determined that the insurance policy required the insurers to reimburse Conrail only for the damages arising out of an ‘occurrence’ (i.e., environmental contamination) that was caused by or grew out of Conrail’s operations at the time,” said the ruling.

“In other words, the policies provided coverage to Conrail only if Conrail could prove it had discharged some of the pollutants during the policy terms for which it had incurred liability,” said the ruling.

The lower court determined facts for some of the sites insured by Continental, and for the site Stonewall insured, indicated that pollutants had been discharged before Contrail took over operations, it said.

“We see no reason to disrupt the court’s sound analysis regarding the interpretation of the insurance policy language and the application of the language to the sites, in question,” said the ruling.…

February 27, 2018

Shelburne business stuck with cleaning PCE contamination Cleaning up a 20 year PCE Contamination

Source:, February 27, 2018
By: Taylor Young

A Shelburne business owner is warning others after he says he unknowingly purchased property contaminated with PCE.

“It’s just been challenging,” said Sean Ryan, the owner of Elegant Floors.

From 1996 to 2000, a dry cleaning business occupied his building. Ryan has a black plastic bag taped by the construction zone that reads “Jason’s Dry Cleaning.” It was found stuffed into piping under the concrete floor.

“They were literally spilling the chemicals right into this vat,” said Ryan.

Dry cleaners can use harmful chemicals, most commonly used is perchloroethylene. Officials say the chemical migrates through the soil and groundwater quickly and has negative impacts on health. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, about 400 hazardous waste sites across Vermont are contaminated with PCE, and sometimes businesses are built right on top of a site.

Until recently, nearly 3,000 feet of soil under Ryan’s business was contaminated with PCE, all of which the state says came from Jason’s Dry Cleaning.

“They pretty much got out of this scot-free,” said Ryan.…

February 15, 2018

Minnesota vs. 3M: A guide to the $5 billion mega-trial

Source:, February 11, 2018
By: Bob Shaw

Call it the $5 billion Teflon trial — Minnesota’s biggest environmental lawsuit ever.

When the trial of the State of Minnesota vs. 3M Co. starts Feb. 20, it will pit the state against what may be its most-loved company. The state attorney general will be taking on a $145 billion corporate behemoth and charging it with fouling the state’s water.

The lawsuit hinges on the alleged damage caused by chemicals found in household items such as nonstick cookware and stain repellent.

The state says the chemicals were made by 3M, dumped by 3M and consumed by 67,000 local water-drinkers and have now spread around the world. 3M, according to Attorney General Lori Swanson, should abide by the Pottery Barn rule: “If you break it, you pay for it.”

3M says the chemicals are indeed widespread — but harmless. Ultra-high concentrations do cause diseases in laboratory animals, it says, but it’s not possible that the parts-per-trillion traces in water have hurt humans, fish or even plants.

The trial, says 3M, is about a bogus health scare.

A key element of the trial will be the alleged 3M coverup. The state says 3M knew the chemicals caused cancer and didn’t tell health officials. 3M says it did tell officials — and for more than 50 years kept them informed about every aspect of its chemical testing and disposal.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.…

January 29, 2018

Premises Pollution Liability Policy: Missouri Appellate Court Addresses Insurance Coverage Issue

Source:, January 16, 2018

The Missouri Court of Appeals (Eastern District) addressed in a December 19th opinion a coverage issue involving a Premises Pollution Liability Policy (“ PPL policy”). See Hazelwood Logistics Center, LLC v. Illinois Union Insurance Company, 2017 WL 6460094.

The coverage question involved whether a PPL policy applied to methane gas discharging from a landfill caused by contractors’ allegedly improperly designed engineering cell.

Hazelwood Logistics Center, LLC (“Hazelwood”) is stated to have remediated an “old illegal landfill site” known as the Edwards Avenue Landfill (“EAL”) in Hazelwood, Missouri, for development.

Hazelwood hired certain contractors to remediate the property which included:

  • Environmental Operations, Inc. (“EOI”) (providing environmental engineering and remediation services)
  • Geotechnology, Inc. (“Geotech”) (providing engineering and consulting services)
  • Clayton Engineering Company, Inc. (“Clayton”) (to provide engineering services)
  • Budrovich Excavating, Inc. (“Budrovich”)(a subcontractor to EOI, to provide clearing, excavation, and screening of trash from the EAL)
January 15, 2018

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

Source: Modesto Bee (CA), January 14, 2018
Posted on:

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 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
Posted on:

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.…