Lockheed Martin Corporation has been hit with a proposed class action over an apparent “environmental nightmare” caused by the widespread contamination of the weapon manufacturer’s Orlando complex and surrounding communities with “extremely hazardous toxins” known to be among “the most toxic to human health on earth.”
According to the 53-page case out of Florida, Lockheed Martin’s Orlando facility, which manufactures heavy weaponry and associated components, has since 1957 utilized toxins that “require the utmost care and handling” due to the danger they present to human health. Instead of exercising such care, however, the defendant has “over decades” stored toxins in leaking storage tanks, transported waste materials in leaking underground piping systems and “dumped thousands of tons of highly toxic waste sludges” into shallow trenches dug throughout the facility, the suit avers.
Per the complaint, the contaminants—which include heavy metals, persistent environmental pollutants and volatile organic compounds (VOC)—have seeped through and into the soil, groundwater and air surrounding the Orlando facility and have the capacity to “damage virtually every human body system” and cause latent diseases and cancers in those who inhale, swallow or touch them.
Moreover, the case adds, the defendant’s efforts to treat contaminated soil and groundwater by installing air strippers, air sparge systems and soil vapor extraction systems have only increased the risks of exposure to surrounding communities by changing pollutants into gaseous toxins expelled “directly into the air.”
In all, the lawsuit charges, Lockheed Martin’s “irresponsible and reckless conduct” has caused those who live or work in the area to be at a greater risk for contracting cancer and other “serious debilitating diseases.”
The plaintiff in the case lives in Orange County, Florida, where she says she’s been exposed to and consumed harmful levels of contaminants due to her proximity to the defendant’s facility. According to the case, the site operated by Lockheed Martin spans 2.5 miles by 1.8 miles between Sand Lake Road to the north, Bee Line Expressway to the south and Universal Boulevard to the west.
The facility, which is roughly half a mile from Sea World and a mile from Universal Studios, has been used to manufacture heavy weaponry and artillery, including nuclear-capable, guided, surface to air, and air to surface missiles, as well as communications and microelectronics systems, according to the suit.
Operations at the Lockheed Martin site required the storage of large volumes of toxic chemicals and generated “dangerous wastes” including metal cuttings and scraps, oils and greases, electroplating solutions and sludge, metallic hydroxide sludge, acid and alkali solutions, cyanide, chromate rinse waste, spent acid solutions, waste-cutting oils, and solvents used to degrease machinery and weaponry, the case explains.
The defendant’s storage and disposal of such contaminants, however, were “outrageously and recklessly indifferent to human health,” the lawsuit scathes, alleging that the troughs and transportation systems designed to carry and collect waste material “leaked into underlying soil for many years.”
The case goes on to detail Lockheed Martin’s allegedly irresponsible actions throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, which included dumping discharged wastes “directly to soil,” building unlined trenches to transport thousands of tons of “toxic sludge,” and collecting and transporting toxic waste in “an inaccessible and complicated maze of underground piping and solvent holding tanks” that were operated “in a state of disrepair” and leaked waste into soil and groundwater.
“These activities, along with others undertaken by Lockheed Martin at the Orlando Facility, have resulted in extensive contamination of soil and groundwater throughout the site,” the complaint reads.
For example, the lawsuit states, although the Environmental Protection Agency has set a regulatory limit of 5 parts per billion (ppb) and a goal of zero ppb for contaminants such as methylene chloride and trichloroethylene, the former has been detected in concentrations as high as 213,600 ppb while the latter has been detected in concentrations of 386,000 ppb in groundwater under the Orlando facility.
Among the toxins and chemicals alleged to have contaminated the Lockheed Martin site and surrounding area are trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), methyl chloroform, vinyl chloride, methylene chloride, toluene, benzene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene, carbon disulfide, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), perfluoroalkyls (PFAS), cadmium, chromium and lead, some of which are known human carcinogens and all of which cause harm to humans, the case says. From the complaint:
“These contaminants have intense effects on the central nervous system, cause blood disorders, are toxic to the liver, kidneys, skin, heart and the immune system. These contaminants damage the respiratory system, skeletal system, reproductive system, and endocrine system and cause birth defects and developmental disorders.”
According to the suit, Lockheed Martin knew or should have known that its reckless storage and disposal of toxic chemicals would lead to widespread contamination and cause “debilitating, life-changing, and fatal illnesses and diseases” among members of the surrounding community.
Instead of taking the proper precautions to protect against any potential exposures, the defendant concocted a “toxic stew of contamination,” the case says, that resulted from years of “callous and reckless indifference” to the health and safety of the environment and those living and working near the facility.
The lawsuit looks to provide diagnostic testing and medical monitoring for anyone who has resided or been employed within five miles of Lockheed Martin’s Orlando facility for a year or more at any time since January 1, 1985.
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