A class action environmental lawsuit filed by Ohio residents who live near a former Chrysler Motors plant in Dayton should proceed with their suit, despite a pending investigation into the site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a magistrate judge has recommended.
The class action environmental lawsuit claims that Chrysler and the plant’s owner, Behr Dayton Thermal Products, negligently, recklessly and intentionally contaminated groundwater. As a result, a plume of underground poisonous vapors expose nearby residents to volatile organic compounds (also known as VOCs), including trichloroethane (also known as TCE) and vinyl chloride.
TCE can cause headaches, lung irritation, dizziness, incoordination and difficulty concentrating. Long-term exposure to TCE can lead to permanent nerve, kidney and liver damage.
The environmental litigation claims that Chrysler has known of the groundwater and soil contamination since at least 1999 but has not stopped it or warned residents of the danger. In addition to the health hazards associated with VOCs, the suit alleges, the residents’ property values have fallen.
Chrysler reported the contamination to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in 2006, and the federal EPA began its own probe into the site contamination in November of that year. Lawyers representing Chrysler and Behr Dayton asked the federal court to dismiss or stay the environmental litigation while the EPA investigates. On April 17, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sharon L. Ovington issued a report to the district court in which she concluded that the environmental lawsuit would not interfere with the EPA’s activities.