U.S. judge dismisses pollution case against Cargill
OMAHA, Neb. (AP)--About 150 current and former Grand Island residents may not be able to hold anyone legally responsible for the groundwater contamination they say caused serious illnesses.
U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf recently dismissed the residents' case against Cargill, and there aren't any other defendants.
"We are disappointed with the judge's decision and are reviewing our options," one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Lemuel Srolovic, said Jan. 6.
A spokesman for Cargill, the privately held agriculture conglomerate based in Minneapolis, did not immediately respond to a message left Jan. 6.
One of the law firms representing the plaintiffs is the Masry & Vititoe law firm, whose environmental consultant Erin Brockovich was featured in a 2000 blockbuster movie of the same name.
Brockovich came to Grand Island in October 2004 and asked property owners to seek the truth in how the contamination occurred.
The Masry & Vititoe firm is also handling a separate groundwater contamination lawsuit filed by Grand Island residents in 2004 against Case-New Holland and several other plaintiffs. That case is still pending with pretrial motions being considered in federal court.
The Cargill lawsuit alleged the company used chemicals linked to illnesses including lung congestion and organ damage, and that the hazardous substances eventually reached the groundwater and several private wells.
Cargill processed and stored agricultural seed at the plant from 1981 to about 2000, when it sold the property.
Another company, Heinzman Engineering, used the property for an irrigation manufacturing business from 1973 until selling the land to Cargill in 1981.
Cargill presented expert evidence and testimony from former Heinzman employees that suggested Heinzman's operations caused the groundwater contamination. Former Heinzman employees admitted dumping chlorinated solvents outside the building.
But Heinzman is no longer operating and was never a defendant in the lawsuit.