Articles Posted in Environmental contamination

contaminated-tap-water-300x213Chicago has a lead problem that may rival the contamination in Flint, Michigan, according to The Guardian. The publication analyzed years of Chicago tap water tests (conducted for residents between 2016 – 2021) and discovered that 1 in 20 of the tests performed by the city showed lead levels at or above U.S. government limits. Out of 24,000 tests, 1000 had lead levels exceeding the federal standard of 15 ppb in drinking water. More than 30% of the tests had lead levels exceeding the FDA standard of 5 ppb lead for bottled water. This is extremely concerning because lead exposure is linked to a host of health effects.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can cause irreversible damage, which is why many health experts say there is no safe level of lead. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends lead levels under 1ppb to protect children whose brains are particularly susceptible to the metal. Even low levels of lead have been linked to lower IQ levels, behavioral disorders, and poor reading and math performance in children. In adults, low levels of lead can cause kidney problems and high blood pressure.

The size of the problem is much greater than Chicago’s current water testing shows, however, because most homes with lead service lines in the city have not even been tested yet. In fact, Chicago has an estimated 400,000 lead pipes supplying water to city homes, more than any other city in the country. This is partly because Chicago inexplicably kept a law– requiring lead pipes be used to connect homes to the city’s water system–on the books until 1986, years after most large cities had banned them.

water-bottle-g82d7e38e6_1920-300x241We have all been told about the benefits of drinking water out of a reusable bottle. It’s convenient, better for the environment than single-use bottles, and increases your daily water intake. However, if your reusable water bottle is made out of plastic, it may be more damaging to your health than it is beneficial. In a recent study,  chemists at the University of Copenhagen discovered that tap water that gets stored in reusable plastic bottles contains hundreds and sometimes thousands of chemicals; many that are damaging to human health, and many more that have unknown toxicity.

The chemists tested three different types of popular plastic water bottles, two of which were biodegradable. The researchers stored tap water in both used and new bottles for 24 hours. Some of the bottles had been machine washed, some had not, and some had been rinsed 5 times with tap water. They then tested the water in the bottles for a variety of chemicals.

Shockingly, after just 24 hours, the researchers found hundreds of substances present in the tap water stored in the new bottles—including substances that had never been found in plastic. Worse still, they discovered THOUSANDS of substances in the water stored in bottles that had been through a dishwasher cycle. And even the tap water stored in thoroughly rinsed bottles contained a significant percentage of toxic and unknown substances. More than 400 of the substances were derived from plastic and 3500 from dishwashing soap.

Camp-lejeune-service-members-graduate-college-300x221Update, July 2022: After being passed in the House and Senate, the Honoring Our PACT Act was expected to go to President Biden’s desk for his signature, but it is currently being blocked in the Senate by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans.

After years of denials by the government, Camp LeJeune veterans and their families–who were exposed to cancer-causing toxins on the military base–may be on the brink of getting their day in court.

In a long-overdue action, the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 3967, the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (Honoring Our PACT Act), a broad bipartisan bill that addresses the needs of veterans subjected to toxic exposure. Yesterday, on June 16, 2022, the Senate passed an amended version of the Act. Importantly for Camp LeJeune veterans, this bill includes the Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022.

ford-2691853_1920-1-300x209Recent news reports have revealed that a benzene leak at Ford’s Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan has contaminated the sewers in a 4-square-mile—and possibly larger—area of the city. As a result of the benzene leak, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is recommending that residents who live in the area bounded by I-75 to the east, Gibraltar Road to the north, Cahill Road to the west, and Woodruff Road south, evacuate until further notice. Initially, 10 homes and one school were evacuated, but now, because it is unclear which homes may be at risk, the MDHHS is recommending that the entire neighborhood evacuate.

Why Should Residents Evacuate?

Residents may be at risk of exposure to high levels of benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC), which can be harmful to human health. Measurements of air in buildings and sewer lines have shown that VOC levels exceed health-protective and explosive levels.

Explosion-1-1-300x188The Collins Law Firm, P.C. has filed a class action lawsuit against Chemtool Incorporated on behalf of residents affected by the explosion that occurred at their Rockton, Illinois plant on June 14, 2021. The explosion resulted in an enormous chemical fire that created a massive plume of toxic smoke, ash, and debris that could be seen from 100 miles away. Eighty-nine fire departments were dispatched to the site to aid in combating the fire, however, due to concern about the environmental impact to the nearby Rock River, they did not engage immediately in fire suppression activities.

As a result of the fire, the Winnebago County authorities issued an executive proclamation of disaster emergency and ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents living within a one-mile radius of the plant. The affected residents were directed not to return home even for medication, technology and communication devices, or other personal items.

Authorities also advised residents within three miles of the plant to wear masks for protection against the potentially toxic and harmful chemicals released by the fire, and to remain indoors without using their air conditioning. Residents were further warned not to touch any of the debris on their property but to have it removed by professionals with experience working with hazardous materials.

Explosion-1-300x188UPDATE: The Collins Law Firm. P.C. and Miner Barnhill & Galland, P.C. have filed a class action lawsuit against Chemtool Incorporated on behalf of residents affected by the explosion and fire that caused them to be evacuated from the area.

A massive explosion and fire at the Chemtool plant, 1165 Prairie Road, in Rockton, IL, has caused huge plumes of ash and debris to blanket homes and businesses two miles and further from the plant, not only in Rockton but in South Beloit and other communities, as well.  Chemtool manufactures greases, including lithium, lithium complex,  aluminum, and clay/bentonite greases.

Along with the debris, it is likely that toxic chemicals have also been released into the air in these communities, and that residents will be inhaling them for some time to come.  Local officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents living within a mile of Chemtool due to the falling ash and the potentially dangerous chemicals released in the fire. At least 1000 residents have been evacuated, along with several businesses. In addition, anyone within three miles of the plant has been advised to wear a mask for protection.

trump-2546104_1920-300x211Since taking over, the Trump Administration has wreaked havoc on the environment, destroying environmental protections left and right. Trump has targeted rules that he thinks are burdensome to big business, even though environmental protections are generally good for the economy. Closing his eyes to this fact, Trump issued the “Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” This Order directs the heads of agencies, like the EPA, to review all existing regulations “that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”

Trump’s Executive Order has certainly been efficient at endangering the earth. As of June 2019, the Trump Administration has rolled back or is in the process of rolling back over 80 environmental rules and regulations. These rollbacks and proposed rollbacks reach every aspect of the environment, from emissions to endangered species. Rollbacks currently in effect include:

  • Lowering fines for automakers who do not meet average fuel efficiency standards

A cancer diagnosis is scary, sometimes devastating. pink-ribbon-3715346_1920-1-300x200 But it is all the more so if your cancer might have been caused by exposure to a toxic chemical in your home, air, or water.  There is a true sense of violation and betrayal when a cancer victim realizes that her illness might have been caused, for example, by the careless dumping of industrial chemicals by a company in her neighborhood.  It may even be a company where the cancer victim herself, or a family member, worked for many years.

What should she do to find out if the company—the neighborhood polluter– caused her cancer? And beyond that, how can she find out if she has a toxic tort lawsuit against the polluter for her cancer?

To get answers to these questions, you will need to find an environmental lawyer who handles these kinds of cases—called “toxic exposure” cases.  Here are some of the critical questions that an experienced toxic tort lawyer will explore:

Want to Pollute in Illinois? Go Ahead, Governor Rauner Won't Stop YouApparently unconcerned that Illinois is one of the top 10 states for industrial air and water pollution in the country, Governor Rauner’s administration is failing to police and penalize industrial polluters. Put more bluntly, Rauner and his EPA are giving polluters a pass.

The Illinois EPA, unlike the US EPA, cannot penalize polluters on its own. It can investigate and negotiate informally with companies, but if a deal cannot be reached, it has to refer the matter to the Illinois attorney general, who can file a civil or criminal complaint. This is the Illinois EPA’s most powerful enforcement tool.

Unfortunately, this is where Rauner’s administration is failing the state. The Illinois EPA has cut back sharply on referring cases to the state’s attorney general. According to a Chicago Tribune analysis of enforcement data, Rauner’s EPA has averaged only 80 referrals a year to the attorney general, compared to 189 for Blagojevich and 144 for Quinn during similar time periods. The result is that, since Rauner became governor in 2015, Illinois has sought only $6.1 million in penalties from polluters-about one-third the amount demanded during the first three years under his two predecessors. (And the amounts sought were paltry, even under previous governors.)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the latest in a parade of dreadful environmental nominees is back.

In December, the Senate sent the nomination of Kathleen-Hartnett White–for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality–back to the White House for reconsideration, believing that Trump would submit someone else. Instead, Trump–in an obnoxious and lazy move–has booted her name right back to the Senate. Now it is up to the senators to put aside party politics and reject this disastrous nominee permanently.

Hartnett-White was an unqualified nominee from the start. A controversial Texas environmental regulator who has called carbon dioxide “the gas of life”, and denied that human activity is causing climate change, Hartnett-White’s initial confirmation hearing was a disaster. 1 She struggled to answer even basic scientific questions, prompting one senator to call her testimony “some of the most embarrassing” he’d ever seen, and later stating that she was unqualified and “didn’t understand high-school level scientific principles.” 2

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