News and Views

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 23, 2018

Well owners file suit over GenX contamination

Source: Fayetteville Observer (NC), February 22, 2018
Posted on:

Dozens of residents who live near a Bladen County plant that manufactures a potentially cancer causing compound filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the company and its predecessor.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by lawyers in Asheville and Dallas on behalf of 70 residents who live near the Chemours plant, which is off N.C. 87 near the Cumberland County line. It alleges that Chemours and its predecessor, DuPont, secretly released GenX and similar compounds into the groundwater, lakes, air, soil and Cape Fear River.

Chemours officials did not respond to an email sent late Wednesday afternoon seeking a response to the suit and its allegations.

The lawsuit is separate from suits filed earlier on behalf of residents who live in communities near the Cape Fear River downstream from the facility.

North Carolina environmental regulators have been investigating Chemours since June when the Wilmington StarNews reported that researchers had published a study the previous year showing they had found GenX and similar compounds in the river. GenX has since been discovered in more than 280 private wells near the plant, including more than 150 that have elevated levels of the compound.

GenX has been linked to several forms of cancer in animal studies, but it isn’t known if the effect is the same in humans. The compound is used to make nonstick cookware and other products.

The lawsuit focuses on GenX and C8, a compound that was previously made at the Chemours plant. C8, which also is known as PFOA, has a “suggestive” risk for cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.…

February 20, 2018

Does Tyndall AFB have an environmental pollution problem? Tyndall Lead

Source:, February 19, 2018
By: Jennifer Holton

It’s a troubling claim— a recently released report from is pointing the finger at Tyndall Air Force Base for decades of procrastination involving pollution at more than 100 sites.

One includes the base’s elementary school.

Years before it was an Air Force base, part of Tyndall’s property was used as an Army Gunnery School for World War II training, using lead-based ammunition. Years later, lead shot littered what is now the school grounds.

Amy Mason taught at the school for 33 years. She says students used to find the pellets outside.

“Kids would find them everywhere, they would play with them,” Mason said. “We didn’t have any idea what they were.”

Tyndall spearheaded several clean-up efforts, most recently in 2015 and 2016, but Environmental Protection Agency Project Manager Robert Pope says work is stalled.

“Right now the Air Force is in a contract dispute with one of their major investigation and clean-up contractors,” Pope said.

Tyndall’s remedial project manager, Joseph McLernan, says it’s in negotiations.

“The contractors were saying, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t finish these, you’re asking too much,’” McLernan said.…

February 20, 2018

Fire amplifies concerns over possible mercury contamination at vacant industrial building in CLE

Source:, February 19, 2018
By: Jordan Vandenberge

Fluorescent Recycling Inc., a Cleveland-area recycling company, continued to defy state and local orders for years by illegally housing millions of mercury-laden fluorescent light bulbs, according to records obtained by News 5. The building where Fluorescent Recycling once operated, a massive industrial building that borders Neville and Wentworth Avenues, caught fire last week, renewing concerns about potential contamination.

A large three-alarm fire broke out at the massive facility last week, prompting Ohio EPA officials to conduct air quality tests. While the tests did not show elevated levels of mercury, environmental officials worry that trespassers might track the toxic chemical outside the building. On Monday, a private security guard was stationed outside the torched loading dock.

The fire is just the latest in a long list of environmental issues concerning the property.

In January 2013, the Cleveland Fire Department conducted an investigation into a complaint about the property. That investigation determined the property was not up to code and there was no gas, electric or water service at the building, according to state records. A few months later, a follow-up investigation showed that nothing had changed at the property, deeming it unsafe. In December 2014, the Cleveland Board of Building Standards upheld a cease use order.

George Dietrich was told that entry into the building was only allowed for moving purposes. However, according to state records, officials discovered in February 2015 that Dietrich had made no progress on moving out. The fire department then sought a temporary restraining order.…

February 19, 2018

MVP’s contractor ran into environmental problems during construction of other pipelines

Source:, February 17, 2018
By: Laurence Hammack

Pipeline Problem Map -- USEA construction company hired to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline worked on three similar projects that were cited by environmental regulators, who found mountainsides turned to muddy slopes and streams clogged with sediment.

The three developers of the natural gas pipelines, two in West Virginia and one in Pennsylvania, failed to comply with plans to control erosion, sediment or industrial waste, according to enforcement actions taken by state regulators.

Precision Pipeline, a Wisconsin company that is a primary contractor for Mountain Valley, played a role in the construction of the earlier projects.

Opponents of the Mountain Valley project fear that the pipeline will bring the same problems to Southwest Virginia, which features mountainous terrain similar to that in West Virginia and Pennsylvania where pipelines were built.

Those worries were heightened by news that the same contractor will be doing the work.

“I have huge concerns about this company being hired,” said Carolyn Reilly, a pipeline opponent who lives along its proposed route in Franklin County.

“There’s already so much distrust with Mountain Valley,” Reilly said. Relying on Precision Pipeline, she said, “just breeds more mistrust.”

February 19, 2018

Westfield lawsuit: Foam manufacturers should have known chemicals persistent, harmful

Source:, February 16, 2018
By: Ciara Speller

City of Westfield suing manufacturers of firefighting foam alleged to have contaminated water

February 19, 2018

Oil still oozes at old pollution clean up site near Charleston waterfront

Source:, February 19, 2018
By: Bo Peterson

Oily sludge still oozes into containment wells across the street from the South Carolina Aquarium — at volumes ranging from 50 to 400 gallons per month.

The soil under the former coal tar gasification plant continues to bleed toxins in the ground, long after the contamination was first revealed in the early 1990s and helped lead to the closing of the nearby public housing complex, Ansonborough Homes.

The pollution and its expensive clean-up delayed the building of the South Carolina Aquarium and launched millions of dollars worth of lawsuits and settlements.

The mess could haunt the construction of the International African American Museum nearby, though state regulators say there’s no sign so far of significant pollution there.

The plant is now an SCE&G electric substation on Charlotte Street, a city block-sized lot between Concord and Washington streets.

The sludge oozing under the lot is largely the residue of waste from a plant that once turned coal into gas for street lights and home heating.

SCE&G is responsible for the clean up. The work will continue for the foreseeable future, said Susan Fulmer, federal remediation section manager for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.…

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.…

February 12, 2018

Ohio sues DuPont over C8 contamination concerns

Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH), February 9, 2018
Posted on:

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has filed suit against chemical company DuPont, alleging it released toxic perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or C8, for decades from its Washington Works plant on the Ohio River — despite knowing potential health and environmental risks.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, calls for DuPont to fund an investigation into PFOA contamination as well as pay for any necessary cleanup of the man-made chemical, which has been linked to various health risks, including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight and high cholesterol.

“We think Ohioans have the right to enjoy the state’s natural resources without interacting with these chemicals,” said Dan Tierney, a spokesman with the Attorney General’s office.

A DuPont spokesperson declined to comment, saying the company had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

PFOA builds up and persists in blood as well as in soil and water, where it is resistant to regular environmental degradation.

Perfluorochemicals have been used in fire-fighting foams and in the manufacturing of cookware, furniture, carpeting, and stain- and water-resistant coatings.

DuPont used PFOA to manufacture Teflon products from the 1950s through 2013.

According to the state’s lawsuit, DuPont released the chemical from its Washington Works plant — located near Parkersburg, West Virginia — for decades. The company ignored internal research and medical staff conclusions that PFOA was toxic and could cause serious health problems and instead allegedly released more of the contaminant into the air, water and land around the plant.

A 2017 University of Cincinnati study analyzed blood samples collected between 1991 and 2012 from the Mid-Ohio River Valley region. Researchers found elevated blood levels of PFOA in residents stretching from Evansville, Indiana to Huntington, West Virginia.

“One of the key factors in pulling the trigger on litigation like this is information gathering,” Tierney said. “We have better evidence and better measures of the effects of what was allegedly contaminated in the area. We believe now, with the progression of science … we have a really strong case.”

In February 2017, DuPont and its spinoff company Chemours agreed to pay nearly $671 million to settle 3,500 lawsuits filed in federal district courts over C8 contamination from its plant near Parkersburg. The lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict ligitation, also known as MDL, before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr., chief of the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus. The idea is that after a few test cases are resolved, the remaining plaintiffs might decide to settle, withdraw their cases or continue to trial.

Most of the lawsuits involved Mid-Ohio Valley residents who said they developed cancer and other ailments by drinking water contaminated with C8 dumped by DuPont in the Ohio River and spewed from its smokestacks.

The company also paid a $16.5 million fine in 2005 for hiding from the public for decades that C8 was toxic and a possible human carcinogen.

Robert Bilott, a Cincinnati lawyer involved in many of the individual suits, said litigation against DuPont is ongoing across the country.

“Litigation seems to be continuing,” he said. “(Thursday’s) complaint reflects recognition by the state of Ohio that these particular materials present a risk and they should be addressed properly.”

In January, the U.S.…