U.S. Water News Online
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. -- A farmer's suit accusing two
former owners of a chemical plant of contaminating nearby cropland
and irrigation wells should be heard in federal court, not Phillips
County Circuit Court, the defendants say.
The two companies named in the suit filed by farmer Harry Stephens
and by Harry Stephens Farms Inc. are also named in a suit filed in
the same court recently by state officials, but the state suit names
a third defendant, and is a separate action from the Stephens suit.
The Stephens suit names Wormald Americas Inc. and Helena Chemical
Co. as defendants. They are former owners of a plant that was
operated in the Helena-West Helenas Industrial Park from 1970 until
it was closed down in 2002 by its last owner, Cedar Chemical Co.
Filed June 9, the suit claims the plant was responsible for
contaminating soil and water at Stephens farms through the production
of various chemical compounds containing 1,2-dichloroethane -- also
known as ethylene dichloride, or EDC.
Charles Nestrud of Little Rock, an attorney for Wormald, said
Helena Chemical Co. filed a request in U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Arkansas asking that the suit be transferred
there, because both defendants are from out of state. Wormald is
based in Marinette, Wis., and Helena Chemical Co. is based in Shelby
Wormald consented to the request for transfer, Nestrud said.
The suit by the state names Exxon Mobil Chemical Co. as a
defendant, in addition to Helena Chemical and Wormald. It seeks more
than $2 billion to pay for the costs of cleaning up the site.
The Stephens Farms suit seeks damages for cleanup of soil and
groundwater at the farm, replacement of irrigation wells and loss of
business income. It also asks for punitive damages.
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