Dozens of Pineville, Louisiana residents and several businesses have filed a proposed class action lawsuit over Dresser, Baker Hughes Energy Services and Halliburton’s alleged role in the contamination of soil and groundwater affecting hundreds, if not thousands, in the area.
The 26-page negligence lawsuit alleges the defendants’ failure to properly store and dispose of hazardous chemicals at their Pineville facility, which from 1961 to 2016 manufactured, repaired, coated and painted specialized valves, “caused or contributed to” the scope of the contamination. The plaintiffs allege the contamination events and activities that caused the problem, as well as the related environmental health risks, were intentionally concealed from the public until this week.
According to the complaint, the contamination was discovered around November 23, 2011 during the replacement of damaged fire-water suppression system components near a chemical storage building at the Dresser facility. During the excavation, a fire hydrant located roughly five feet south of the chemical storage building fractured, causing residual fire-water from within the system transmission line to fill the excavation, the suit says. Thereafter, the case states, a hydrocarbon sheen was seen on standing water, and subsequent soil and water samples revealed the presence of chemicals that include trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE).
In the time since, an extensive groundwater investigation conducted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) has revealed a “large groundwater contamination plume” affecting potentially thousands of nearby property owners and residents, the case says.
Per the suit, the LDEQ this week began notifying residents in close proximity to the Dresser facility about the contamination and the potential risks.
Hazardous waste at the Dresser facility derived in part from solvents, cutting oils, acids and caustics used to clean and grease valves, other metal parts and machinery, the lawsuit says. The complaint, citing consultants for the defendants and the LDEQ, states that these wastes were for many years disposed of into a “series of drains, vaults, tanks, and/or a pit,” and flowed “directly to the ground surface beneath the Facility.”
Per the lawsuit, the solvents dumped, spilled and/or released from the Dresser facility are highly chlorinated compounds that include, but are not limited to, PCE and TCE, which have been found in groundwater near the site at levels that exceed state standards. The case describes TCE as a colorless, volatile liquid solvent used to remove grease from metal parts. While TCE evaporates quickly from the air, it breaks down very slowly in soil and water, the case says.
The other chemical found in unacceptable levels in groundwater near the Dresser facility, PCE, is characterized in the case as a nonflammable, colorless liquid dry-cleaning agent and metal degreaser. Per the lawsuit, PCE may evaporate quickly from shallow soils or filter through the soil into the groundwater below but is generally slow to break down in soil and water.
“Studies in animals have shown PCE exposure is linked to liver and kidney effects, cancers, and changes in brain chemistry,” the case reads. “Studies in humans suggest that exposure to PCE might lead to a higher risk of getting bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
The lawsuit alleges Dresser, Baker Hughes and Halliburton “knew or should have known” that toxic and hazardous chemicals had been and were still being discharged from the Dresser facility, and that such would result in the contamination of the land, air, surface waters and groundwater within and outside property boundaries. According to the suit, the defendants’ conduct was “grossly negligent, wanton, reckless and in callous disregard for the rights and safety of others, including Plaintiffs.”
“As a direct result of the above-described acts and omissions of Defendants, Plaintiffs have suffered damages to their respective properties and their use and enjoyment of such properties occasioned by Defendants’ misconduct, including economic damages occasioned by such harm,” the complaint says. “Plaintiffs have also sustained damages occasioned by the diminution in the value of their respective properties, including stigma damages.”
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