JACKSON -- 150 families who own property in the Jackson, Wisconsin area have filed a lawsuit in Washington County Circuit Court as of December 3rd, after a gasoline spill due to a ruptured pipeline which occurred on July 17th. At least 55,000 gallons of gasoline escaped and traveled into the groundwater.
Preliminary indications are that a large welded seam in the pipeline ruptured and allowed the release of the gasoline. As early as 1988, the U.S. Department of Transportation had warned that pipelines like this one, using electric resistance weld (ERW) construction techniques were subject to seam failures and required careful inspection and maintenance to avoid spills.
Homeowners in the affected communities alleged that they have sustained economic and emotional damages. Their concerns are addressed in a 55-page court filing.
Many of the homeowners have been unable to use the water from their wells because they have tested positive for benzene, a known human carcinogen.
The homeowners are asking for compensation for their losses, including the establishment of a medical monitoring fund to provide access to early cancer screening, and punitive damages against the defendants to serve as a deterrent against conduct that caused the pipeline rupture.
It is expected that additional families will join this lawsuit.
Heather and Scott Anders have owned their home for 12 years. What they want this holiday season is to avoid the bottom dropping out on their investment.
"Moving isn't on our radar right now. We're concerned about the long-term value of our property and any long-term damages that could come out of it," Heather Anders said.
"People in the area who have put their house on the market, they've had deals fall through when they find out they are this close to the spill. To be honest, I don't know if we could sell it, let alone how much we'd get for it," Scott Anders said.
West Shore Pipe Line, the company overseeing the pipeline, has been involved with the cleanup and combatting the environmental damage to the air, soil and water.
Now, the company faces legal action involving homes and the long-term health of Jackson residents.
"We're concerned probably more for our children than for us. It's just what we do in today's society to protect ourselves and make sure it's covered in the way it should be," Scott Anders said.
West Shore Pipe Line Company released the following statement regarding the lawsuit: "Per company policy, we do not comment on ongoing litigation. We remain focused on the successful remediation of the spill and on a long-term solution to the water needs of the community."