Claims – Pollution Legal Liability

July 8, 2019

Mold infections leave one dead and force closure of operating rooms at children’s hospital

Source:, July 3, 2019
By: Hannah Knowles

One patient dead. Five others infected. A thousand surgeries postponed and 3,000 people told to watch for infection symptoms.

That’s the toll so far from mold problems at Seattle Children’s Hospital that forced the shutdown in May of all main operating rooms on its main campus in Seattle. The hospital says issues with its air-filtering system were probably at fault.

The six patients who developed infections — three last year, three this year — were more at risk from the mold because of their medical procedures, according to the hospital, which U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country and this year rated top in the Northwest. The death stemmed from an infection in 2018 but occurred this year.

Mark Del Beccaro, chief medical officer at the children’s hospital, announced at a news conference Wednesday that the operating rooms would reopen Thursday, as daily air-testing results indicated the facilities were safe.…

June 21, 2019

In rural Alaska, school districts deal with a legacy of unaddressed contamination

Source:, June 19, 2019
By: Rashah McChesney

There are thousands of open contaminated sites in Alaska.  Typically, when one is discovered, it’s up to the landowner — or the person responsible for making the mess — to clean it up.  But there are dozens of sites where this process has broken down — where it isn’t clear who owned the property when it was polluted, who caused the pollution and who should pay to clean it up.

It’s especially a problem in rural Alaska, where remote sites can cost millions to remediate.

Lower Kuskokwim School District Maintenance Director Jeff Harris is intimately familiar with the problem — his district has seven open contaminated sites where state regulators have flagged it

On an uncharacteristically warm, dusty spring day at his office in the school district’s Bethel headquarters, he offers an unorthodox tour of some school district property.

So, from the massive cab of one of the district’s beefy Dodge trucks, we go for a bumpy drive along the city’s unpaved roads. Bethel isn’t a big town. It has about 16 miles of road, total. But still, it’s surprising to drive down Fifth Avenue and come across a block of brightly-colored shipping containers.

“This is the ugly part of LKSD,” Harris said.  “So we’ve got more containers all the Super Sacks –” he pauses and turns, pointing across the road.  Behind a chain-link fence is a cluster of dilapidated 10,000 gallon fuel tanks. “These are the fuel tanks that we removed from villages so we could get rid of them.”

The Lower Kuskokwim School District is the largest of its kind in Alaska. It’s a Rural Education Attendance Area — think of it as a type of borough created specifically for rural education — spanning 22,000 square miles of tundra and 27 schools.  A lot of times, when contaminated junk is removed from one of those village schools — it makes a pit stop at district headquarters in Bethel.

The containers that we’re looking at hold the remnants of a Yup’ik immersion school that burned down in Bethel in 2016.

“It was like, dirt from the fire. So it’s contaminated with broken wood and that kind of stuff,” he said.

There’s another row of shipping containers just like it a few blocks away right outside of the high school. Those have everything from darkroom chemicals to asbestos in them.

Harris said, you can’t just take all of this stuff over to the dump.  And there aren’t a lot of ways to get out of town. You could fly.  Or, as is the case with these containers — take a boat.

They have to be barged about 50 miles down the Kuskokwim River where empties into a bay and, eventually, the Bering Sea.  From there, it’s thousands of miles to the closest landfill that will take them.  It gets expensive.

Three years ago, Harris said he shipped one container of dried bio-solids — that’s code for treated sewage — from a village downriver.

That one shipping container, wedged onto a barge – Tuntutuliak to Oregon? It cost $15,000.…

June 13, 2019


Source:, June 12, 2019
By: Greg B. Smith

The city’s Housing Authority and the Department of Investigation are looking into how NYCHA workers checking for lead ended up using expired dust wipes to certify apartments are “clean,” THE CITY has learned.

The expired materials revelation raises questions about the credibility of the so-called clearance examinations NYCHA uses to officially declare an apartment lead-free.

Workers use the wipes after an apartment is cleaned of lead. The wipes, which gather dust samples, are sent to a lab for testing. But expired wipes are “less effective” at detecting lead, their manufacturer said.

Expired wipes were employed by some workers, THE CITY revealed last week as NYCHA blew it May 31 deadline to remove lead apartments where young children live.

Sources have since told THE CITY that workers at several developments were given wipes that expired in 2014 and 2016.…

June 7, 2019

IU’s lawyers say the university isn’t contractually obligated to keep its rooms clean

Source:, April 28, 2019
By: Lexi Haskell

Here’s what else you’ve missed with the lawsuit.

IU is not contractually obligated to provide clean, safe or mold-free housing to its students, attorneys representing the university’s Board of Trustees have argued in a court filing.

More than 20 IU students who lived on the Bloomington campus at the time are suing trustees of IU after dealing with mold this year in residence halls.

The students’ attorneys claim IU broke its contract by allowing students to move into mold-plagued rooms. They also allege a number of wrongdoings, including negligence, fraud and deception.

But IU’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing the students have no case.

“The written contractual terms and conditions do not state that Indiana University is contractually obligated to provide dormitories that are either free from mold, ‘suitable and ready for inhabitation,’ or ‘clean, safe, and habitable,’” IU’s attorneys wrote in a court filing.…

May 30, 2019

Developer to pay $82,000 for mishandling toxic chemicals in Rumford

Source:, May 29, 2019
By: Alex Kuffner

The developer of the Phillipsdale Landing complex in Rumford has agreed to an $82,000 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over allegations of mishandling toxic chemicals.

Bourne Holdings, of Pawtucket, agreed to pay the fine to settle allegations of six counts of violating federal regulations for the safe handling and management of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The case stemmed from an April 2018 inspection in which the EPA documented the improper storage of PCBs and items that came into contact with PCBs. Inspectors with the agency also confirmed that a PCB transformer on the site had been dismantled and that some of the parts had been sold as scrap without being decontaminated.

PCBs are human-made organic chemicals that were manufactured in the United States from 1929 until they were banned in 1979. They were used in hydraulic and electrical equipment, paints, plastics, dyes and industrial devices. They have been tied to cancers in humans and there is evidence that they interfere with the immune and reproductive systems, according to the EPA.

“The violations at Phillipsdale Landing were significant given the quantity and concentration of PCBs involved,” the EPA said in a statement.…

May 29, 2019

Federal judge sends Plaquemines oil and gas damage suit back to state court

Source:, May 28, 2019
By: Mark Schleifstein

A lawsuit charging six oil and gas firms with damaging wetlands and land within the Potash Oil & Gas Field in Plaquemines Parish in violation of Louisiana’s coastal zone management laws should be heard in state 25th Judicial District Court in Plaquemines, a federal judge ruled Tuesday (May 28).

The order is the first to return to a state court of 42 lawsuits charging that the historic operation of oil and gas companies in six parishes along Louisiana’s coastline — including the construction of service canals, the improper disposal of hazardous wastes and saltwater, and other operations — caused damage to wetlands that state law requires the companies to either pay compensation for or repair.

There’s a good chance that the opinion issued by U.S. District Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of New Orleans will be followed in returning other suits to state courts that are under consideration by other federal judges in New Orleans. A similar ruling might also follow for the suits that were removed to the federal court in Lafayette.

“The governor is pleased that the judge approved the Department of Natural Resources’ motion, which is also supported by Attorney General Jeff Landry and simply says that these Louisiana claims should be heard in a Louisiana court,” said a statement issued by the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards. Edwards, Landry and the state Department of Natural Resources have intervened in all the suits in an effort to assure that any restoration or money coming from an ultimate ruling on behalf of the parishes will be used in compliance with the state’s coastal Master Plan.…

May 23, 2019

Mold discovery at Seattle Children’s Hospital closes operating rooms, officials say

Source:, May 22 2019
By: Stephen Sorace

Seattle Children’s Hospital closed several operating rooms and is contacting the families of about 3,000 children who’ve had recent procedures after a common type of mold was detected in the facility over the weekend, officials said.

Aspergillus mold was found in four of the 14 operating rooms following a routine check, hospital officials told The Seattle Times. The affected rooms will remain closed until further notice. Dozens of surgeries have been moved or rescheduled.

“Patient safety is our top priority, and we are taking this situation very seriously,” hospital spokeswoman Alyse Bernal said in a statement.

Aspergillus is a common mold found both indoors and outdoors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most people breathe in the spores every day without getting sick, the mold poses a greater risk to those with compromised immune systems or lung disease. The mold can cause allergic reactions and infections in the lungs and other organs.

While the hospital said it believes the risk to surgical patients is “extremely low,” it is contacting those who’ve had surgical procedures in the past four months, the paper reported.

Hospital officials told KOMO News that staff are cleaning the affected areas and will work with an industrial hygienist to determine how the mold contaminated the operating rooms.

Two patients at the hospital have developed Aspergillus infections over the past year, KOMO reported. One of the patients died. Details on the cases couldn’t be shared because of health care privacy laws.…

May 17, 2019

A dangerous delay

Source:, May 16, 2019
By: Jenn Abelson, Amy Brittain and Sarah Larimer

The University of Maryland waited 18 days to inform students of a virus on campus. That decision left vulnerable students like Olivia Paregol in the dark.

It had been six days since Olivia Shea Paregol walked out of the University of Maryland health center without an answer for why she felt so awful.

Now, the 18-year-old freshman was curled up in the fetal position on the floor of her dorm room at Elkton Hall in College Park, her brown hair resting on the shaggy white rug. She warned her friends, Sarah Hauk and Riley Whelan, to stay away from a plastic bag where she had just vomited.

The teenagers hoisted Olivia up and shuffled to the elevator. Once inside, Olivia leaned against the wall and slid to the floor.

“Don’t sit down,” Riley said. “Come on, it’s just a short ride. You can do this.”

“I literally can’t,” said Olivia, the words slicing her sore throat like knives. “I have to lay down.”

Olivia had been sick most of her first semester living in an overcrowded dorm that was infested with mold. But her symptoms now were far worse than a cough and congestion.

May 16, 2019

Frantic parents fear for kids after radioactive contamination found at Ohio middle school

Source:, May 16, 2019
By: Safia Samee Ali

“It’s so scary that my child has been exposed to this because I have no idea how it’s going to affect him,” one mother said.

Ashley Day has always worried about the health risks of living a few miles from a defunct nuclear power plant in Piketon, Ohio. So, when her son Kendon came home Monday and told her school had been canceled for the rest of the year, she had a sinking feeling there was a connection.

A few hours later, her fears were confirmed: The Scioto Valley Local School District declared in a letter that Zahn’s Corner Middle School would be shut down for the remainder of the school year because of possible radioactive contamination from the nearby Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which the federal Department of Energy is in the process of decommissioning.

“I felt anxiety, anger, and paranoia all at once,” she said. “It’s so scary that my child has been exposed to this because I have no idea how it’s going to affect him.”

The district said enriched uranium and neptunium-237, highly carcinogenic radioactive chemicals, were detected not only inside the building but also at a Department of Energy air monitor adjacent to the school.…

April 23, 2019

Pollution cleanups planned for two dry cleaning sites

Source:, April 19, 2019
By: Brian Nearing

Toxic chemicals will be dug out of two vacant former dry cleaners sites in Schenectady and Watervliet, under plans announced by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The property around the former Admiral Cleaners, 617 19th St., Watervliet, and the former Kenwood Cleaners, 445 Duane Ave.,

Schenectady, are tainted with high levels of a carcinogenic dry cleaning solvent, tetrachloroethene (PCE), and related toxic byproducts.

Exposure to PCE likely increases cancer risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Primary effects from chronic, long-term inhalation exposure are neurological, including impaired cognitive and motor neurobehavioral performance, according to EPA.

PCE exposure may also “cause adverse effects in the kidney, liver, immune system and hematologic system, and on development and reproduction,” according to the EPA.