With the effects of climate change, pollution and water contamination are increasing at an alarming rate. Many Americans suffer from water contamination, whether it’s oil spills, toxic waste, or poor sewage management.
Many have even filed lawsuits against corporations and government agencies to seek justice for this negligence and breach of duty. However, not all lawsuits about water contamination have been successful.
People have failed for various reasons, including poor evidence collection and lack of advice from a qualified attorney. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most famous cases involving U.S. citizens suing corporations over contaminated water supply as well as their outcomes.
Dupont vs. The U.S. Government
This case is one of the most famous water contamination cases in American history. It involved a chemical manufacturing giant accused of polluting drinking water with toxic chemicals for decades.
The complaint was filed by an environmental group called Earthjustice on behalf of homeowners. They claimed that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which are used to make non-stick coatings and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, immune system problems, and thyroid disease, had contaminated their wells.
The suit alleged that DuPont knew about these health risks years before alerting residents near its Parkersburg plant in West Virginia (a total of 70 sites were later identified as having been contaminated).
In 2013, DuPont agreed to settle for $10.25 million after years spent battling in court. However, this was only a fraction of what many residents were seeking. They’d expected at least $100 million from DuPont based on how much money had already been spent cleaning up similar sites where PFOA had leaked from factories owned by other companies.”
DuPont later had to settle the lawsuit for 671 million USD, a result also chronicled in a 2019 Hollywood movie “Dark Waters.”
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
In the early 1980s, the water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated with chemicals. The contamination was caused by the Marine Corps and the US government, who failed to report that their water supply was toxic. As a result of this negligence, thousands of people were affected by illnesses, such as cancer, kidney failure, and birth defects.
In 2016, a federal court ruled that the government would pay $2 billion as Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Settlement Amounts for health problems suffered by veterans who lived on base between 1953 and 1987 (when they discovered it was poisoned). This amount is estimated to cover medical expenses over 24 years after exposure stopped. But it doesn’t include lost wages or pain and suffering charges.
The Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has estimated that as many as one million people may have been affected by contamination at Camp Lejeune, and up to 500,000 claims could have been filed.
Oregon vs. Monsanto
Monsanto, a multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation based in St. Louis, Missouri, was first sued by the state of Oregon back in January 2019 for contaminating groundwater with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The lawsuit alleged that Monsanto had known about PCBs’ adverse effects on human health since the 1930s but continued to sell them anyway.
Monsanto is responsible for producing many products, including Roundup herbicide, and seeds such as genetically modified soybeans and corn.
The case brought against Monsanto by Oregon is similar to those filed by several other states around the U.S. as well as an individual plaintiff who claims she developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure from PCBs produced by Monsanto between 1969 and 1979 at its Anniston facility located just outside Birmingham Alabama.
California vs. Pacific Gas & Electric
In the case of Hinkley, California vs. Pacific Gas & Electric Company, a group of residents sued PG&E for contaminating their water supply with chromium-6 in the mid-1990s. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $333 million in damages, making it one of the largest verdicts ever awarded against an American company.
It was also a landmark for tort law in California. It established that companies could be held liable for failing to inform consumers about toxic substances they knowingly release into the environment, even when those substances have not been explicitly banned by government regulators (as has been the case with chromium).
Ohio vs. Ashland Oil, Inc.
Amongst the most famous water contamination lawsuit in U.S. history is Ohio vs. Ashland Oil, Inc., and it’s worth reviewing here because it’s a good example of how lawsuits can work to help clean up our environment.
In 1975, the state of Ohio filed suit against Ashland Oil Inc., alleging that the company had been dumping toxic chemicals into the Mahoning River for more than 20 years. In 1979, Ashland agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines and pay $3 million toward cleanup costs associated with removing PCBs from certain bodies of water within Ohio’s borders (the largest amount ever awarded under Superfund legislation).
As per a recent study, every year, 9 to 45 million Americans get water in their tap from a source that is not compliant with the Safe Water Drinking Act.
The United States also has a long history of water contamination lawsuits. Many of these cases have been successful, and the compensation awarded to victims is often remarkably high.
These cases are becoming increasingly common as communities become more aware of their rights regarding clean drinking water standards.