December 26, 2013

Andover settles toxic sludge case

Source:, December 20, 2013
By: Dustin Luca

The town has officially settled a District Court lawsuit with Bancroft Road resident James Berberian, bringing an end to a toxic sludge case dating back to 2010.

Berberian stands to be paid $500,000 in the settlement, finalized by a unanimous vote from the Board of Selectmen at an open meeting last night, according to Town Counsel Tom Urbelis.

Of the money in the settlement, $450,000 will be paid by the town while $50,000 will be paid by engineering firm Pennoni Associates, according to Urbelis.

Pennoni Associates’ involvement in the matter came after the company had done work on Berberian’s 2-4 Bancroft Road property.

The settlement approved yesterday follows a similar agreement, which included a $440,000 payment from the town and a contingency for a separate agreement from Pennoni, which fell apart in October.

Other changes to the agreement from the previous one amount to rephrasing of some wording, Urbelis said.

The agreement was not available after the meeting last night. Berberian’s attorney, Joseph Wadland, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The lawsuit case began in November 2010, when water department employees were cleaning out the 6 million-gallon water storage tank at the Bancroft School as part of routine maintenance on the water system.

However, town workers were videotaped by Berberian dumping dark-colored water into leaking trucks and into a nearby storm drain. That drain flowed down Bancroft Road and onto Berberian’s property at the corner of South Main Street.

The brownish water contained dark sediment which ended up settling in a wetland on Berberian’s property. When that sediment was tested, it showed high levels of toxic metals, including arsenic, cadmium and nickel, among others.

The town attempted to clean up Berberian’s property, but he claimed that some sediment remains. In February 2012, he then sued the town in federal court over what he said was a violation of the federal Clean Water Act for discharging contaminated water into a wetland.

Following months of closed-door meetings, the Board of Selectmen voted in August to accept the earlier settlement agreement.

By the end of the month, with a counter-proposal filed by Berberian, it appeared the agreement was in jeopardy “through no fault of either party,” Wadland said at the time.

The full agreement will be available in the coming days, according to Urbelis.


October 4, 2013

Act professional

Source:, September 30, 2013
By: Jay Sturhahn, Sherman & Howard LLC

A recurring risk for licensed professionals remains the threat of liability claims arising from their work. Given the nature of the professional’s practice, the claims are complex and costly, regardless of their merit. Therefore, professional liability insurance is a critical component of any professional’s practice.

Professional liability insurance continues to be a significant expense. Consequently, it has been our experience that the premium is often the biggest driver in policy selection. But selecting professional liability insurance based on cost, to the exclusion of an analysis of coverage, has its own negative economic consequences. Securing the best coverage, at the best price, requires examination of certain critical factors.

Insure the Right Risk.

Don’t assume insurers will voluntarily cover every claim arising from the professional’s performance of a compensated act for a client. Many professionals provide a blend of professional services, whereas liability policies are designed to cover risk arising from the traditional practice of the profession. For example, lawyers often give operational advice to their business clients and architects are asked to provide construction advice. Whether claims arising from the performance of these “non-traditional” acts are covered will depend on the policy in question, so review the policy before binding. Also, if you are a professional that regularly engages in “non-traditional” acts – e.g., a lawyer that prepares clients’ tax returns – confirm that undertaking is covered.…

September 11, 2013

Pinellas County sues contractors over Lake Seminole clean-up

Source:, September 3, 2013
By: Anna M. Phillips

Pinellas County is suing the two companies it hired years ago to design and build several water treatment facilities for Lake Seminole as part of an attempt to reduce water pollution.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 21, claims that Environmental Research and Design and Tampa Contracting Services failed to properly design the project that, once built, suffered structural problems and ultimately cost the county additional money to repair. The county is suing for damages and negligence.

The project was funded with money from Penny for Pinellas and also relied on grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, which is not involved in the suit.

Leaders of both companies said the lawsuit came as a surprise.

The Lake Seminole project ended in 2011, said Daniel Harte, founder and chief executive officer of Tampa Contracting Services, which is based in Palmetto.

“The project was done and substantially complete,” he said. “This is news to me.”

An attorney for the county declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal dispute.

In 2003, Pinellas officials brought in Environmental Research and Design as a consultant to study the feasibility of building a stormwater treatment system, which would use the chemical alum to reduce turbidity. The company still lists the project on its website, where it says it was paid about $2.4 million for engineering and construction work that was completed in September 2009.…

July 25, 2013

Myrtle Beach groundwater pollution trial headed back to court

Source:, July 19, 2013
By: David Wren

A pollution trial that was sidetracked last year by a lack of jurors is scheduled to start Monday in Conway with would-be condominium developers JDS Development of Myrtle Beach Inc. blaming the failure of their project on groundwater contamination caused by electronics manufacturer AVX Corp.

David and Steve Nance, partners in JDS Development, claim groundwater containing trichloroethylene, or TCE, migrated from the AVX site along 17th Avenue South to their property, causing their bank to withdraw a construction loan for their planned Southern Pines condo project at the intersection with Beaver Road.

AVX denies the allegations and is expected to argue that the real estate collapse – not polluted groundwater – caused the project’s demise.

The case – originally filed in January 2008 – was supposed to go to trial last year, but only 20 potential jurors showed up during the first day of jury selection and the trial had to be delayed. Judge Benjamin Culbertson has said at least 200 people will be summoned this time to provide a sufficient jury pool.

In addition, AVX has filed more than a dozen pre-trial motions that will have to be heard before the trial begins. Most of those motions seek to have certain evidence and testimony excluded from the trial. For example, AVX previously asked Culbertson to bar any references to TCE’s health hazards, claiming such references are irrelevant to the property damages claim and are only an attempt to scare jurors. Culbertson took that request under advisement last year.…

June 14, 2013

Environmentalists sue Coos Bay contractor over dirt slide

Source:, June 11, 2013
By: Thomas Moriarty

Two environmental groups are suing a South Coast contractor under the federal Clean Water Act.

The groups allege the contractor negligently let 1,500 cubic yards of construction debris slide into Coalbank Slough, violating the Clean Water Act.

Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and Coos Waterkeeper filed the suit Thursday against Johnson Rock Products, GMAC Mortgage and landowners Mikael and Malati Lindh in U.S. District Court in Eugene. The act allows individual citizens and groups to bring civil suits in addition to federal and state enforcement actions.

The suit alleges that on April 3, 2012, excavated soil and debris that Johnson Rock had stored on the Lindh property slid into the slough, altering the flow of tidal waters.

The lawsuit comes a year after the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality found Johnson Rock in violation of Oregon environmental laws regarding discharge of waste in state waters.

“We have been very supportive of DEQ’s enforcement efforts, but too much time has passed and nothing has been done to clean up the debris or rehabilitate the slough,” said David Petrie of Coos Waterkeeper. “It’s time to hold those responsible for this pollution accountable for their actions.”

Bridgette Whinery of Johnson Rock said the company is still working with DEQ and the Lindh family to resolve the state violation case. She said the company plans to review the new complaint and file a response if necessary.

The groups are being represented by the Portland-based Crag Law Center.


June 4, 2013

Mines polluting WV waterways

Read here about mining sites in West Virginia that environmental activists say are polluting waterways.


March 13, 2013

Many Love Canal plaintiffs no longer live in Falls

Source: Buffalo News, March 11, 2013
Posted on:

Nearly one-third of the people who recently applied to join a Love Canal lawsuit no longer live in Niagara Falls.

And at least one of those people, according to a Buffalo News analysis of court records, never did live in the Love Canal neighborhood.

“I anticipate that we’re going to see some derivative claims filed in this lawsuit. That is, claims filed by people who never lived at Love Canal but who had parents or grandparents who lived near the Love Canal,” said Douglas A. Janese Jr., an assistant corporation counsel who is defending the city of Niagara Falls against the $113 million state lawsuit. “At this point, we have no way of knowing if these claims are legitimate or not. We may not know the real truth until we get these people in front of a jury.”

Because of the size and complexity of the case, legal experts predict that it’s going to take one to three years of pretrial wrangling before the case goes to trial.

The lawsuit has raised new questions about public safety in the neighborhood surrounding Love Canal, a 70-acre toxic landfill site surrounded by homes, playgrounds, baseball fields and senior citizen facilities.

While state and federal government officials insist the neighborhood is safe, attorneys for more than 600 plaintiffs claim that dangerous chemicals have leaked from the landfill onto the properties of nearby homeowners, creating a “public health catastrophe.”…

March 7, 2013

Condo developer sued over environmental damage

Source: Nashville Post, March 4, 2013
By: Pierce Greenberg

TDEC says fill material rising 30 feet has clogged stream

John Rankin, the developer of the mostly vacant Braxton Condominiums in Ashland City, has been sued by the state of Tennessee for environmental damage inflicted on another property in Cheatham County.

The suit filed Friday accuses Rankin of dumping fill material, including construction and demolition waste, into a stream channel that flows into the Cumberland River. The “alterations” buried 1,500 linear feet of the stream and the tons of waste piled up to 30 feet in height, according to the lawsuit.

Due to the clogging of the stream, a lake with an area of several acres has formed and bacteria now coat the stream channel and everything in it, a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation report said.

The alleged offenses were discovered by TDEC officials in February 2007 while the Braxton condos were under construction. The Ashland City Codes Department issued a stop-work order to Rankin in December 2006 and criminal charges for illegal dumping were also sought, according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims that Rankin said the move to dump fill material without TDEC approval was “foolish.” Following the initial findings against him, Rankin appealed to the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board but never showed up at his appeal date.

Rankin filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and lenders foreclosed on the 136-unit Braxton project last year, three years after the development was placed in receivership. Rankin now lives in New Hampshire.

The Davidson County Chancery Court lawsuit asks a judge to enforce a judgment of $321,250 in natural resource damages and civil penalties against Rankin.…

January 18, 2013

Georgetown business owners file first sinkhole lawsuit

Source: Georgetown Times (SC), January 18, 2013
By: Scott Harper

Scott Harper/Times File Photo
The UPS Store on Fraser Street in Georgetown was destroyed by a sinkhole in November 2011. Tony and Debbie Jordan owned the Parrish Place building housing that business and several others. On Tuesday, they filed a lawsuit seeking damages.

The first lawsuit has been filed in connection with the sinkholes that formed in the City of Georgetown in late 2011 damaging several buildings and homes.

Tony and Debbie Jordan filed the suit in the 15th Circuit Court Tuesday naming Davis & Floyd Engineering, Republic Contracting, S&ME Inc. and the South Carolina Department of Transportation as defendants.

The Jordans owned Parrish Place on North Fraser Street which housed several businesses including the UPS Store, which Debbie Jordan owned and managed.

That building was destroyed when a sinkhole formed underneath the structure in November 2011.

They also own the buildings in the Highmarket Business Center in the same block. One of those buildings housed Tony Jordan Allstate Insurance. That building is still classified as being unsafe to occupy because of the sinkhole damage

The suit is not asking for a specified amount to be awarded but is asking a jury to allow them to recover the “actual, consequential and incidental damages” they have suffered as a result of the sinkholes.…

January 10, 2013

Lawsuits filed over building of Clint sewers

Source: El Paso Times, January 9, 2013
By: Mary Schladen

The town of Clint and a long list of residents and churches are suing a group of construction companies and engineering firms, arguing that since 2010 they pumped out too much water too fast from the area so that the ground has sunk, twisting and cracking dozens of buildings in the Lower Valley community.

The suit was filed Dec. 28. In it, 46 plaintiffs are suing five firms that are building a sewer system for the town.

They claim the engineers and builders negligently used a dewatering method that is inappropriate for an area with such a high water table and such loose soil.

Their work “resulted in extremely aggressive and reckless dewatering which lowered the water table and caused subsidence at the ground surface resulting in damage to the plaintiff’s properties,” a consultant’s report attached to the suit says.

Defendants named in the lawsuit — Red Cliff Inc., CEA Engineering Group Inc., Bain Construction Inc., CQC Testing and Engineering LLC, and Western Dewatering — could not be reached for comment. They also had not yet filed responses to the suit with the court hearing the case, County Court 3.

Dozens of buildings

Kathryn Snapka, a Corpus Christi attorney specializing in construction law, is representing all the plaintiffs except the town of Clint. On Monday, she said the defendants had not yet been served the suit, but they already had indicated that they did not believe they were responsible for damage to dozens of buildings in Clint.

“The reaction of the construction companies has been disappointing,” Snapka said.…