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IBM and plaintiffs settle over TCE spill suit.

IBM and plaintiffs settle over TCE spill suit.

IBM Corp. will settle a lawsuit brought by 1,000 plaintiffs who alleged that toxic spills from the company’s former Endicott manufacturing plant caused illnesses and deaths, damaged property values and hurt businesses.

Both sides announced the settlement without revealing details of the agreement.

“IBM and the plaintiffs’ counsel have reached this agreement in an effort to resolve these cases without further burdensome and expensive litigation,” said the joint statement from the litigants.

The settlement brings to a close a more-than six-year saga in which IBM and those who claim they were harmed by the toxic releases waged a fierce legal battle on monetary rewards.

Affected residents, in a multi-million-dollar liability lawsuit against IBM, claimed the company should pay for the damage caused to residents around what once was the company’s main domestic manufacturing facility.

From 1935 to the mid-1980s, IBM used TCE (trichloroethylene) to clean metal parts in degreasers at its industrial campus in the Village of Endicott. In 1979, the company discovered some of the TCE had pooled in groundwater beneath the facility and appeared to be migrating.

Soil vapor intrusion

Contamination from soil vapor intrusion was detected by the late 1990s, and by 2002, IBM began testing the air at the request of state health and environmental agencies. Basement ventilation systems were eventually installed in more than 400 homes.

Settlement negotiations between the parties began last July, when state Supreme Court Justice Ferrous D. Lebous requested that representatives of both sides start meeting about an out-of-court settlement. Negotiations were apparently successful, culminating with Tuesday night’s release that the parties agreed to a settlement that satisfied both sides.

Lawyers of those who brought the suit against IBM said they will conduct meetings with clients over the coming weeks to present terms of the settlement.

IBM representatives said the company will continue the environmental cleanup that has been ongoing since the widening toxic plume was discovered.

Pumps spread throughout Endicott pull pollution from the ground through structures called recovery wells.

Over time, these wells have grown in number from four to more than 22, and to date, they have recovered more than 815,000 pounds of trichloroethylene and other toxic chemicals, with an unknown amount remaining beneath the village.

Company officials have never publicly explained IBM’s role in the disaster, and their legal position was that the company always handled chemicals responsibly and in accordance with standards of the day. They have not denied their former operations were a primary contributor to the pollution. They have not admitted it, either, nor have they offered a detailed explanation of the source of the problem.

Cleaning up industrial solvents

Representatives of the company said it was cleaning up the solvents from multiple industries that have operated in the region’s industrial corridor for generations. Endicott was also home to the vast shoe manufacturing empire of Endicott Johnson Corp., once the region’s largest employer.

However, the toxic-liability suit named only IBM as the source of the chemicals that tainted parts of Endicott’s commercial district and nearby residences.

IBM sold the 140-acre campus to Huron Real Estate Associates in 2002. Current tenants include i3 Electronics (formerly Endicott Interconnect), BAE Systems and Binghamton University, among others.

Lawyers for IBM have long contended it was following the responsible path, picking up the sizable costs for cleaning the spill and providing venting systems for properties designated at-risk for vapor intrusion.

Both sides scored initial victories as the case wound its way through the courts. Lower courts ruled against IBM’s motion to have the case dismissed, and ruled in favor of a plaintiff’s motion to have charges of negligence — the underpinnings of the case — tried before a jury.

But lower court rulings also eliminated or limited some aspects of the litigation, including the charge that the pollution constitutes a trespass in all cases, and the claim that IBM should be held accountable for monitoring the medical condition of all plaintiffs, including non-property owners.

IBM was also able to limit claims for medical monitoring to only people claiming other damages, such as illness or property loss. That eliminated claims for a potentially large group of plaintiffs — renters and children, for example — who may have been exposed but did not develop illnesses or suffer property damage.

Source: PressConnects

Remove TCE and other gases with air cleaners

Soil vapor intrusion and other sources of chemical exposure can affect health and well-being – especially with long-term exposure.

Electrocorp offers industrial-strength air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA plus optional UV filtration to remove dangerous pollutants from the ambient air – no matter how big the space. Activated carbon is a trusted filtration media for chemicals, gases, fumes and odors, and it can remove hundreds of chemicals, including TCE, formaldehyde and benzene.

Check out Electrocorp’s air cleaners for chemical and odor control and contact Electrocorp for a free consultation: Call 1-866-667-0297 or write to

Living close to a chemical company may be a health hazard, residents charge.

Living close to a chemical company may be a health hazard, residents charge.

The neat, modest homes of Cannon’s Campground and Bellview Acres conceal tales of sickness and death.

Carcinoma, leukemia, kidney tumors — dozens of homes have a story, and very few have happy endings.

After decades of suspecting the nearby Hoechst Celanese polyester manufacturing site and its various occupants of spewing toxic chemicals into the environment, the community filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court.

The lawsuit alleges known carcinogens used at the plant have leached into ground and surface water that flows through the communities, resulting in dozens of cancer cases.

The suit seeks an injunction of all pollution-causing activities on the site as well as an order to identify and treat existing contamination and to prevent any further migration beneath private property.

The plaintiffs also seek a health monitoring program for community members to be administered by the court and paid for by the defendants. They are seeking reimbursement for lost property values and civil penalties.

In an emailed statement, Celanese spokesman Travis Jacobsen said there is no connection between contaminated groundwater at the site and the groundwater in the communities because the areas are separated by streams acting as discharge boundaries.

“Simply put, the environmental conditions at the Spartanburg plant site have not caused adverse health effects or a loss of property values in the nearby residences,” Jacobsen wrote.

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studied cancer data after residents suggested a pollution link, but in a 2011 report said a cancer cluster did not exist.

The study examined the entire ZIP code the plant is located in and not the specific area near the plant where chemicals could have migrated, critics say.

The primary plaintiff is Jay Easler, but the suit was filed on behalf of all residents living in a two-mile radius of the site at the intersection of Interstate 85 and the Pacolet River. Easler owns property abutting a stream known to locals as “polluted creek.”

At a community meeting in 2011, a Celanese spokesman said Hoechst Celanese was never cited for pollution and always adhered to existing environmental controls.

DHEC’s website states many current regulations were not in place when the plant began operations in 1966. Soil and groundwater contaminants were discovered in 1990 and mitigation efforts began in 1996.

A series of wells were installed along the border of the property to pump groundwater to the surface for treatment. Several years later, when evidence of contamination remained, solutions were pumped into the ground in an attempt to dissolve or disperse the chemicals.

Despite mitigation efforts, DHEC documents cited in the lawsuit reveal rising toxicity in the contaminated soil and groundwater beneath the site and an expanding plume of contaminants reaching off the site. In 2011, the first-ever DHEC testing of private wells confirmed contaminants found at the site were also in the drinking water supply.

The chemicals were found only in trace amounts in the wells, but many people could have been exposed over prolonged periods of time. Many residents no longer use well water and have switched to the city water.

This article has been edited for length.

When toxins are in the groundwater, they may also enter homes and businesses through soil vapor intrusion. Electrocorp offers efficient and long-lasting activated carbon + HEPA air cleaners to remove airborne chemicals, fumes, odors, particles and more.

Contact Electrocorp for more information.

Vapor intrusion can become a concern in any home or building.

When it comes to human exposure to pollutants, regulators have traditionally been most concerned with contaminated soil and water – but polluted air caused by vapor intrusion is fast becoming a major cleanup issue, experts say.

According to the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council, polluted ground and water have been around for centuries, while vapor intrusion entered the public debate about two decades ago, making it the new kid on the block.

New guidelines, issued in 2010 by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, describe how to investigate and prevent vapors from entering homes or buildings.

Health effects of vapor intrusion

Regulators are becoming concerned about the health effects that potential vapor intrusion issues can cause in building occupants. Many chemicals and solvents have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.

The EPA is still working on its own guidelines.

Well-known vapor intrusion offenders include dry cleaners. When dry cleaning operations contaminated the ground underneath their business with perchloroethylene (perc), the dry cleaning fluid, the chemical could often be detected in adjacent homes or buildings, having entered through cracks or opening in the foundation or building envelope.

Other solvents and chemical substances can become vapor intrusion concerns, including 1,1 dichloroethene and trichloroethene which were used in industrial applications.

Consultants and industrial hygienist often recommend indoor air mitigation systems similar to those used for radon to reduce risks of exposure.

Source: Sheboygan Press

Air cleaners for the removal of chemicals, gases and fumes

Electrocorp works with environmental consultants to provide industrial air cleaning solutions for facilities and residential dwellings affected by vapor intrusion.

Contact an Electrocorp air quality representative today for more information on vapor intrusion and our advanced activated carbon filtration systems designed to safely remove chemicals, gases, fumes and odors.

Vapor intrusion is a serious health hazard, experts warn.

The U.S. Army, activists and regulators seem unable to agree on who should clean up a TCE plume underneath Orion Park just outside Moffett Field.

The site contains a former housing complex where contaminants have been found in the groundwater as well as in the indoor air of the homes.

The Army says it’s not responsible for the cleanup based on their own site investigation, which found no on-site source of the toxins. They say it must be someone else’s responsibility.

However, the EPA and other experts are not convinced by the report and demand a cleanup by the Army. Even the Department of Defense has ordered the Army to take action on Orion Park’s environmental condition.

What is TCE and how does it affect people’s health?

TCE stands for Trichloroethylene, a carcinogenic solvent that was used by the nearby defense department and computer industry operations, which leaked into the ground.

In underground plumes, TCE becomes an enormous health hazard when fumes enter buildings or homes through a process called vapor intrusion, taking advantage of tiny cracks and fissures in the foundation.

Inside homes, it can build up to dangerous levels.

According to the EPA, TCE is carcinogenic to humans by all routes of exposure and it can cause a wide range of health effects, including neurological, immunological, reproductive and developmental effects.

Off-site and on-site sources of pollution possible

There is acknowledgment that part of Orion Park’s toxics came from nearby plumes that were being cleaned up by the Navy and tech companies, but the EPA says the Army’s claim of no on-site sources was not substantiated.

Meanwhile, the area in question now houses a new Army reserve and command post with buildings that have vapor barriers and ventilation systems installed to help prevent soldiers’ exposure to TCE vapors.

In the long run, it is cheaper to clean up the toxic rather than to maintain vapor intrusion barriers and special ventilation systems in buildings.

The negotiations between parties are ongoing.

Activated carbon can remove gaseous contaminants such as TCE vapors.

Source: Mountain View Voice

Provide healthy indoor air with air cleaners

Activated carbon is one of the most effective and affordable filtration media when it comes to TCE, or trichloroethylene.

With a carbon efficiency rating of 4 for TCE (the highest rating meaning a high capacity for adsorption of the vapors), an air cleaner with many pounds of activated carbon can help remove TVE vapors in indoor environments.

Electrocorp works with environmental consultants and experts to supply portable and powerful air cleaners with activated carbon and HEPA technologies for commercial and industrial applications.

Contact Electrocorp for more information and options.

The air in buildings can suffer if the soil underneath is contaminated.

Working in the city of Orange just got more dangerous.

Soil testing shows  that the ground underneath one building is contaminated with a toxic chemical – now the OC Employees Association is asking for the evacuation of the building and an adjacent building for fear of toxic air at the workplace.

The tests revealed the presence of the industrial chemical and solvent perchloroethylene (also known as perc) in the soil five and 10 feet below ground. Additional tests are planned.

The levels met EPA guidelines, but the level at 10 feet exceeded the California Human Health Screening Levels.

What is perchloroethylene?

According to the EPA, perc is a colorless, nonflammable liquid.  It does not occur naturally but is produced in large amounts (310 million pounds in 1991) by three companies in the United States.

The largest US user of perc is the dry cleaning industry.

Textile mills, chlorofluorocarbon producers, vapor degreasing and metal cleaning operations, and makers of rubber coatings also use perc.

It can be added to aerosol formulations, solvent soaps, printing inks, adhesives, sealants, polishes, lubricants, and silicones.  Typewriter correction fluid and shoe polish are among the consumer products that can contain perc.

People are exposed to perc when they breathe in the gases. Once in the body perc can remain, stored in fat tissue.

Health effects of perc

While human health effects depend on the individual, the amount of perc and the time frame of exposure, the chemical has been linked to health problems such as

Exposure to perc can cause cancer, experts say.

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Cancer

Employees in the affected building are worried about their health and safety and have been calling and e-mailing to voice their concerns, the union says.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Keep indoor air safe inside buildings

Airborne chemicals and gases like perchloroethylene, formaldehyde and other substances are not only harmful to human health, they can also become a liability issue for the employer.

Along with sensible health and safety precautions, source control and ventilation, an industrial-strength air cleaner can help keep the indoor air pollution to a minimum.

Electrocorp’s air cleaners feature a large activated carbon filter, HEPA and optional UV filtration to remove the widest range of indoor air contaminants.

Contact Electrocorp for more information and suggestions.

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