Saturday, July 16, 2011

Merced, CA Pays $1.5 Million in Federal Chromium 6 Public Contamination Case

Some time next year, it is likely that the final phase of these proceedings -- the phase in which a new federal jury will be asked to decide whether punitive damages should be assessed against Merck (and, potentially, the municipal government of Merced) -- if it is found that the Chromium 6 levels were injurious to public health around the old Baltimore Aircoil plant -- a Merck acquisition (and subsequent divestiture). Here is some local reporting (via HuffPo) on the latest city settlement -- do go read it all:

. . . .The Merced settlement – which was finalized in March but wasn't immediately reported – will go to more than 2,200 plaintiffs.

Merced city attorney Greg Diaz said the settlement was spurred by economic reasons, not by any liability involving chromium on the part of the city.

The city was a defendant in the original case, in which allegations included a wide variety of contaminants in the floodwater, including chromium, Diaz said.

However, he said the city's possible liability was limited to household waste that enters the sewer and storm water systems. . . .

Merck officials acknowledged during the first phase of the trial that hexavalent chromium contamination occurred but denied that any of it left the confines of the plant at levels that could have harmed the health of residents.

Merck first found hexavalent chromium at the plant site in 1984 and was issued a violation in 1987. But according to court documents, the company did not start remediation until 1991.
In the second phase of the trial, a new federal jury will determine which of the plaintiffs may have been harmed by the chemical exposure and determine possible punitive damages. . . .

We will keep you posted -- but as is apparent, my other life-responsibilities have now eclipsed my ability to post here more than once a week, or so. Look for at least a weekly posting -- and probably concentrated during the weekend timeslot.

This week, I'll experiment with an "open thread" concept: the idea is that each of you -- the readers -- will be able to post New Merck (or legacy Schering-Plough) news items, in the comments to the open thread post. Look for it above, in a moment.

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