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Web Date: January 8, 2008

Suit Claims IBM Dumped Chemicals

Residents outside firm's first plant site sue for damages to health, property values
Department: Business
News Channels: Environmental SCENE

More than 90 current and former residents who live near IBM's original site in Endicott, N.Y., have filed suit against the computer maker alleging it released millions of gallons of industrial chemicals into the environment, threatening their health and lowering the value of residential and business properties. They seek compensation for lost property value and personal injuries, as well as punitive damages.

IBM does not deny releases of volatile organic compounds from the site, where it made typewriters, computer systems, and integrated circuit boards between 1924 and 2002. However, spokesman Michael Maloney says "this legal action has no basis in science or law, and IBM will defend itself vigorously."

Attorneys for the claimants say IBM released trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethane, benzene, and trichlorotrifluoroethane into the ground and air. Over many years, they claim, the solvents and cleaners formed "a plume of toxic chemicals" that migrated through soils and groundwater, posing a health hazard to people living and working downhill from the plant. The suit alleges that fumes from the plume infiltrated homes and businesses and were responsible for cases of kidney cancer and infant heart defects.

IBM says it has undertaken a groundwater remediation program since 1979, which included the installation of hundreds of extraction and investigation wells. The firm has also installed ventilation systems at more than 480 properties in the area of its former plant. Since 2004, the firm has paid out $2.8 million in compensation to eligible property owners under a program negotiated with the New York State Attorney General's office.

Four years ago, IBM faced more than 200 suits from workers at its plants who alleged harm from chemicals used to make computer chips. Maloney says a large number of those suits were dropped after IBM won cases that went to trial. It settled another suit, without disclosing the terms, brought on behalf of a 23-year-old plaintiff who alleged that her birth defects were a consequence of her mother's exposure to chemicals used in a New York semiconductor plant.

Maloney acknowledges that the technology giant has tried to negotiate a settlement with the Endicott plaintiff attorneys but would not say why those negotiations have not resulted in a settlement.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

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