New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Filing a Lawsuit For Contaminated Water

Posted on Mar 28, 2018 in Hazardous Materials

A New York-based environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) reported that in 2015, nearly 77 million people in the United States lived in places where the water systems violated safety regulations in some form, including the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.

According to a new study, if you live in the US, there is a nearly 1 in 4 chance that you either have tap water that is unsafe for drinking or that has not been monitored properly for contaminants in accordance with federal law.

The report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that there were approximately 80,000 violations of regulations for drinking water safety that were reported in 2015. Of those, over 12,000 were “health based” violations, or cases involving actual problems with contamination.

Types and Sources of Contaminated Water

There is an alarming increase in water contamination, causing serious harm, even life-threatening ones, to hundreds of thousands of people and the environment. There are environmental laws in place to protect people and dumping of toxic waste or other hazardous materials in public land, streams, rivers and lakes is prohibited by environmental law policy.

However, new chemicals that natural gas companies use in tracking, for instance, can adversely impede regulation and pollute the source of drinking water. Apart from illegal dumping and fracking (fracking is huge in states like North Dakota and Texas and the water there is just fine – just offering a complete picture here), other such practices such as industries and factories using large underground storage tanks and construction with toxic lead pipes can result in water pollution.

Along with contaminants that come from industrial practices such as underground storage tanks and mining, groundwater, which is used by more than 50% of the population in the US, and a major source for irrigation of crops, is polluted through pesticides, fertilizers, untreated septic waste, etc.

Contamination of well water can be caused by contaminants used at a number of different sites such as gas stations, oil refineries, railroad yards, waste storage/chemical plant facilities, land fills, machine shops, dry cleaning stores, incinerators, and lumber yards.

For instance, there are often cases of nitrate contamination in rural areas that rely heavily on well water. To compound the problem of well water contamination, toxic chemicals may have increased contamination as they leach into the ground water.

While there are many types of substances that contaminate drinking water, the more prevalent types include the following:

  • Fracking
  • Lead
  • Benzine
  • Arsenic
  • Nitrate

Other types of contaminants of drinking water include oil, gasoline, petroleum, phenols, PCE, TCE, MTBE, various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other chemicals.

Agricultural runoffs, like pesticides, fertilizers, bacteria and fecal matter, can also contaminate drinking water. Exposure to water that is contaminated with pesticide or bacteria can be life-threatening, depending on the duration and levels of the exposure.

Drinking water sources can be contaminated by industrial sources through storm water runoff and wastewater discharges.

The chemicals that are used in industrial applications vary significantly and there are new chemicals that are constantly invented, in particular for the oil and gas industry’s fracking operations but fracking has not contaminated any water despite what some political groups have to say about it. Fracking has made America an energy powerhouse and helped out the middle class in many states but this is another topic.

Health Risks of Contaminated Water

Research of water contamination has proven that people with long-term exposure to high levels of water contaminants such as nitrates, lead, benzene and a wide range of other chemicals have become ill as a result of that exposure. Some chemicals like benzene – a carcinogenic and linked to leukemia – have life-threatening effects.

When you drink contaminated water, it can lead to many different health risks. For instance, if pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals contaminate the water, the health effects can include damage to the reproductive system, kidneys, and liver, and you must keep in mind that many chemicals are carcinogenic.

The NDRC lists some common, but harmful substances that are found in ground and well water, including lead, rocket fuel, coliform, arsenic, germs and disease-carrying parasites, and other harmful contaminants.

Symptoms of nitrate contamination include shortness of breath as well as methemoglobinemia, which is also known as “baby blue syndrome,” a blood disorder that can potentially be fatal. Other conditions and illnesses linked to drinking water with high levels of nitrates include:

  • Gastrointestinal illnesses, including cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Thyroid disorders, including cancer
  • Miscarriages

MN AG Settles with 3M for $850 Million

MN AG announced a settlement of $850 million with 3M in the state’s lawsuit against the company for its disposal of PFCs in the east metro.

A press release stated that the funds from the settlement would be used to finance projects involving drinking water and sustainability of water in the area that was affected by 3M’s disposal of chemicals.

The settlement came after the trial’s opening day – it was anticipated to be the most expensive environmental lawsuit in the history of Minnesota – was stopped without warning. Jury selection was yet to begin when the announcement that there would not be a trial was made by officials.

The lawsuit filed by the state against the Maplewood-based multinational conglomerate corporation, 3M asked the company to pay $5 billion to clean up environmental damaged that its chemical dumping caused. The lawsuit states that starting in the 1950s, the company knowingly dumped huge quantities of PFCs, which are highly dangerous chemicals, at four dumpsites in the east metro area.

The chemicals were used in the manufacturing of household items such as stain repellent and nonstick cookware. 3M stopped the production of PFCs in 2002.

The state claimed that the chemicals seeped into the ground water, which in turn polluted the drinking water for thousands of people who were living in communities such as Oakdale, Cottage Grove and Lake Elmo. The Attorney General’s office claimed that the contamination of water resulted in an increase in the rate of low birth weights, birth defects, cancer, and other illnesses for that area’s residents.

Filing a Lawsuit

The type of environmental lawsuit that you are eligible to file depends on what your results are. If your aim is to simply make sure that the polluters or establishments are just forced to clean up the mess they may have caused, you can then bring your case to the attention of the Environmental protection Agency, who then takes necessary administrative action against the company that caused the pollution.

If this is the course of action you take, the EPA will conduct an investigation to determine if there is contamination.

Another option is to raise a “citizen suit” in the court with the help of an attorney to make the polluter clear out the contamination. If the agency has already identified contamination, you may also choose to sue the polluter on behalf of the government. You can also file a lawsuit if the government has not shown that there is a hazard, however you will have the added responsibility of conducting the investigation and proving that the hazard exists.

If you wish to recover monetary damages for the harm and inconvenience caused to you by exposure to contaminated water or any kind of environmental hazard, or for property damage caused by pollution, you will require to go to a court of law in order to file a standard civil suit.

This is like any other type of personal injury lawsuit – you will need to hire a legal counselor who can assist you in proving your case in court and there is no one better in this field than RMFW Law. To prove your case, you must show that you were exposed to a hazard, and that you were harmed by that hazard.

In some cases, joining a class action suit can be a quick way to proving that the hazard caused you harm. Once you prove that you were exposed to the hazard and should be able to join the class, the responsibility of proving that the company did something wrong is taken on by the class.

If there is no class action to join or if you prefer not joining one, you will need to prove “causation.” This means that you need to have solid proof that you were hurt or harmed by the exposure. You can do this by proving that the hazard in your case is known to result in certain illnesses. Another thing you can do is collect evidence showing that other people also became sick after they were exposed to the hazard.

But regardless you need a fabulous law firm on your side and the best firm in the region is RMFW Law. Our honesty and work ethic is second to none and we know the law. If someone has cost you dearly, they deserve to pay a price for that.

Oil Companies Pay $196 Million for Pollution in New Jersey

Three major oil companies come to a settlement to pay close to $200 million to New Jersey over a lengthy pollution lawsuit that has gone on for more than 10 years.

The office of the New Jersey Attorney General announced that a total of $196.5 million would be paid as settlements from lawsuits filed against Shell, BP and Sunoco over methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). That total was broken down as follows:

  • $64 million was Sunoco’s settlement, which it has already paid to the government.
  • $64 million was BPs settlement. So far, the company has paid $32 million to the state of New Jersey. The remaining half, with interest, will be paid in July.
  • $68.5 million is Shell’s settlement.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the chemical MTBE is added to gasoline to give the fuel’s octane a boost, which in turn helps the fuel burn more completely and lower tailpipe emissions. MTBE dissolves in water very easily, meaning that it is capable of contaminating drinking water systems without too much trouble at all.

The American Cancer Society, said that the chemical is known to cancer in lab animals, but it is not clear if the chemical is a carcinogen in humans.

Due to the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, use of MTBE has been phased out around the United States with ethanol replacing the chemical in gasoline.

In June 2007, Anne Milgram, the former Attorney General, filed a single complaint against a number of defendants on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s behalf over MTBE pollution sites around the state.

Filed under the State Water Pollution Control Act, the lawsuit stated that New Jersey sought money to cover cleaning up waters polluted by MTBE as well as damages. Since then, the complaint has been amended, most recently in 2012. In the current version of the complaint, over 30 defendants were named, including companies that refine petroleum, companies that sell gasoline in the state and MTBE-manufacturing chemical companies.

The state reached settlements with 15 of the defendants for a total of over $350 million. That total included the $196.5 million from Shell, BP and Sunoco along with the following:

  • ConocoPhillips: $39 million
  • Hess: $35.3 million
  • Coastal: $20 million
  • Citgo: $23.3 million
  • Lyondell: $15.1 million
  • Valero: $17.5 million
  • Vitol: $2.2. million
  • Duke Energy: $1.7 million
  • George E. Warren Corporation: $2.1 million
  • Crown Central Petroleum: $275,000
  • Western Yorktown Refining: $285,000
  • Marathon: $255,000

A spokesman for the Attorney General said that litigation was ongoing with more companies, including ExxonMobil.

Recovering Damages for Environmental Lawsuits

In most cases of environmental lawsuits, companies will offer to settle, which means that they will offer you a sum of money so that the case does not go to court. If you are filing the lawsuit yourself, you must decide if the money that the companies offer is enough. You give up the right to sue once you settle.

If you do not go settle, your case will go to court. If you are able to prove your case in the trial, the amount of money that the company has to pay will be decided by the jury. If you are part of a class action suit, you will usually not get to decide whether the settlement should be accepted or not. It will boil down to what the class decides.

If you or a loved one has been harmed due to contaminated drinking water, you should immediately seek the help of an attorney with experience in environmental pollution cases. Contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280 to find an experienced attorney to handle your case. This type of case can be very complex, which is why you need the help of a stellar legal pro who will help you determine your best course of action.

Once your attorney has decided that you have enough evidence to file an environmental lawsuit for contaminated water, you can sue the company/companies or the government agency responsible for the contamination and recover compensation to help you with expensive medical bills for your treatment, pain, and suffering and many other damages.

The first meeting is free. In fact, when you deal with RMFW Law, you pay us nothing up front. We have won big money for people in the past and present, you can be on this amazing list. Call us today!

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