Toxic chemical caused cancer and fatalities, according to new lawsuit.
A medical lawsuit has been brought by Attorney Thomas Wahlder and Attorney Lawrence Centola against the former Dresser plant in Pineville, Louisiana, claiming a chemical spill at the facility caused serious medical issues for nearby residents, including three types of cancer, and the death for two of four plaintiffs in the case. An attorney working as a co-counsel with Alexandria attorney Wahlder, Stephen Hecker, said their suit seeks “several different types of remedies for pain and suffering, for remediation of the property, loss of use” and other remedies allowed in in the state.
The chemical which contaminated Dresser is called Trichloroethylene (TCE), a colorless, volatile liquid that is non-flammable and has a sweet odor. TCE has long been viewed as toxic with exposure to the chemical potentially very dangerous.
Don M. Gash, PhD, John T. Sleven, MD, and colleagues from the University of Kentucky, in Lexington, conducted a study in 2008 in which the team followed up a patient with Parkinson’s disease (PD) participating in a clinical trial who suspected his condition may have been caused by prolonged exposure to TCE at his job. They found other employees of the same company had also developed PD, and animal work confirmed the neurotoxicity of TCE. The authors wrote at the time, “TCE joins other mitochondrial neurotoxins, MPTP, and some pesticides as a risk factor for parkinsonism.”
And yet, it wasn’t until late 2016 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under section 6 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), proposed a rule to ban the use of TCE in aerosol degreasers and as a spot cleaning agent at dry cleaners. Banning TCE as a vapor degreaser followed soon afterwards. The Department of Health and Human Services now considers Trichloroethylene to be a human carcinogen and warns that exposure to moderate amounts of TCE may cause headaches, dizziness, sleepiness; large amounts may cause coma and even death.
It is believed the spill began by 2012, according to court documents. However, residents were not notified until March 2020. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) issued a release at the beginning of its testing and remediation process indicating “environmental contamination has been detected in the vicinity of your property or residence.” The release assured “your drinking water is obtained from Rapides Parish Water Works District 3 and is safe” and also mentioned that no outdoor air contamination was detected. At the time, the LDEQ said there was no evidence of public exposure.
Dresser manufactured industrial valves and components at its Louisiana plant, using trichloroethylene to degrease metal components. The source of the contamination had been identified as a TCE storage tank. In 2011, GE Oil and Gas acquired Dresser, and in 2017, the company merged with Baker Hughes. Dresser underwent two remediation processes when the litigation originally surfaced, including installing wells and conducting a pilot test to treat soil by removing gas. The lawsuit noted, too, that Dresser released chemicals into the ground water to break down the contaminants in June 2018 before telling anyone what happened.
A spokesperson for Dresser Pineville said, “While we don’t comment on active litigation, the Dresser Pineville project team remains fully committed to resolving the local environmental issue in full coordination with the LDEQ.”