By Nash, James L.
Occupational Hazards , Vol. 63, No. 12
Kerr-McGee (KM) faces several lawsuits charging the company with environmental contamination that some experts believe has contributed to higher rates of cancer, birth defects and other diseases in Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The lawsuits, which seek unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for a growing number of people, is based on company practices that date to the 1920s.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs filed a press release in the court of public opinion in late October. "They're seeking to stir up the community and sign up more plaintiffs for their case," KM attorney Peter Nickles said.
At issue is the environmental management of KM plants in Columbus, Miss., Bossier City, La,, and Avoca, Pa., where the wood used for railroad ties was treated with pentacholorphenaol or creosote, substances containing chemicals that can pose health risks if not disposed of properly. The plaintiffs' attorneys allege that for decades these plants discharged waste products irresponsibly. Because of open ditches running through residential neighborhoods, as well as spills, leaks and air emissions, they argue anyone living near these plants was exposed to toxic chemicals. …