Environmental

Benzene lawsuit claims Michelin plant still polluted

Benzene Benzene lawsuit claims Michelin plant still pollutedMichelin dumped benzene and other toxic chemicals throughout a now-abandoned rubber- and tire-manufacturing plant, a group of residents from an Oklahoma subdivision alleges in a lawsuit against the tire company and its parent B.F. Goodrich.

According to the Miami (Oklahoma) News-Record, 112 former and current residents of the Miami Heights subdivision, including six children, claim the companies knew that loads of benzene, naphtha, and other harmful chemicals were present throughout the shuttered manufacturing facility in Miami, Oklahoma, but failed to clean up and properly dispose of the substances.

The plant employed about 1,900 workers before it shut down in 1985.

“Goodrich had knowledge that its underground chemical feedline system was leaking hazardous waste yet failed to take any actions to correct or properly report the continuous leaking of hazardous wastes into the soil and groundwater adjacent to and immediately north of the Miami Heights housing subdivision,” the lawsuit asserts.

The plaintiffs allege the chemicals were stored in underground storage tanks, rooftop tanks, roof silos, and 55-gallon drums. They also claim that more than 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil were also stored on-site in multiple above-ground storage tanks, the Miami News-Record reports.

Benzene is a colorless or light yellow chemical in liquid form and is usually odorless. It evaporates quickly when it contacts air, creating a potential environmental and health risk. The chemical has been linked to the development of acute lymphocytic leukemia in children, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and other types of blood cancer such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma in adults.

The lawsuit alleges Michelin and B.F. Goodrich committed “numerous and repeated” violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986, including failure to submit emergency follow-up notices, hazardous chemical inventories, safety data sheets, and toxic chemical release forms to the Local Emergency Planning Commission or Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

The plaintiffs seek between $25,000 and $75,000 for every day the defendants failed to implement a safety plan.