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---May 30, 1988---
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A California court has awarded damages of $3.9 million to four plaintiffs whose groundwater was contaminated by a now closed hazardous waste dump in Salinas, CA; the dump is owned by Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. of Akron, OH, who will have to pay the plaintiffs $2.6 million in punitive damages and $1.3 million in compensatory damages.

The plaintiffs--Frank and Shirley Potter and Joe and Linda Plescia--will receive compensatory damages as follows: $800,000 for fear of life-threatening disease, $1633,000 for medical monitoring, over $269,000 for psychological damage, and about $108,000 for "disruption of lives." According to the law firm representing the plaintiffs, this represents the highest percapita compensation case in the U.S. involving groundwater.

For over seven years the plaintiffs lived adjacent to the Crazy Horse landfill in Salinas where Firestone disposed of hazardous chemical wastes between 1963 and 1980.

The plaintiffs became aware of a problem with their drinking water in November, 1984, but "did not receive an adequate response to the problem from the local, state, and federal agencies that have jurisdiction over Monterey County. In January, 1985, tests of the plaintiffs' drinking water showed concentrations of five to 20 parts per billion (ppb) of several chemicals, including benzene, chloroform, methylene chloride, toluene, and vinyl chloride." The judge in the case, Robert O'Farrell, said the chemicals in the drinking water "fingerprinted a tire-making factory." The plaintiffs filed suit against Firestone in early 1985.

During the lawsuit, information surfaced showing that Firestone continued to dump in the landfill despite memos written by Firestone personnel saying such dumping was illegal under California law.

A spokesperson for Firestone says the company plans to appeal the decision.

For further information, contact attorneys for the plaintiffs: Gordon Stemple, Stemple & Boyajian, Suite 900, 1888 Century Park East, Century City, CA 90067; phone (213) 556-2650.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.

Descriptor terms: ca; drinking water; groundwater; settlements; victim compensation; firestone; crazy horse landfill; landfilling; leaks; robert o'farrell; lawsuits;

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