For this post I will be describing our Environmental and Toxic Tort practice. The Simon Law Firm and I are part of an environmental litigation partnership that includes The Law Offices of Van Kirk McCombs, II., of Jacksonville, Florida, The National Legal Scholars Law Firm, located in Lyme, New Hampshire and The Moye Law Firm, Tallahassee, Florida. We also work with local counsel in other jurisdictions where we prosecute Environmental and Toxic Tort lawsuits. This working partnership includes a team that has the experience and expertise to investigate and prosecute a wide array of environmental and toxic tort litigation across the country.
As part of our case portfolio our team is prosecuting and conducting investigations into a series of landfills along the Gulf Coast wherein companies have purchased local landfills, obtained hurricane cleanup contracts and then recklessly operated the landfills in a manner which has caused offsite groundwater, air and soil pollution to migrate into surrounding residential communities impacting the health and properties of local residents. We are pursuing similar investigations for in different regions of the country.
We are currently litigating environmental law cases on behalf of 300 clients. For example, the Saufley Landfill in Pensacola, Florida is a 23-acre construction and demolition debris landfill located in the center of residential neighborhoods that are home to over 2000 people within a one mile radius. What was once a small sand mine operation and locally operated small scale 5 acre C & D facility was purchased in 2005 by out of state owners looking to make money of off FEMA contracts and hurricane debris collection. Since the current owners began to operate the Saufley Landfill, there has been a dramatic increase in the production of hydrogen sulfide gas which has emanated into the surrounding communities. The Saufley Landfill owner, Louisiana Investment Group, has been cited repeatedly for violations of Florida’s environmental laws and regulations.
One month after the Defendants began operating the landfill, in February of 2005, the residents who live in the subdivisions surrounding the Saufley Landfill began smelling, and complaining of, objectionable odors described by the residents with words like rotten eggs, sulfur, offensive and unbearable. Soon after the reports of objectionable odors began, the landfill was reported to be on fire and continues to burn and smolder today. Around the same time the landfill fire was reported, citizens began experiencing health symptoms such as nausea, headaches, throat irritation, cough and congestion, upper respiratory tract infections and burning eyes. There has even been a death of an 18 month old child that we are investigating to determine whether the death can be linked to the landfill emissions. The ATSDR and Florida Department of Health have conducted ambient air studies and of the residents who live near the landfill and subsequently concluded that the site was a public health hazard and that the symptoms reported were consistent with chronic hydrogen sulfide exposure.
We recently filed a motion for injunctive relief asking the Court to order Defendants to: 1) immediately monitor for hydrogen sulfide; 2) immediately implement a gas collection system; 3) immediately treat all landfill gasses; and, 4) close the landfill according to standards. That motion is set to be heard soon.
Other cases include the Coyote Navarre Landfill in Navarre, Florida. Coyote is a 38-acre construction and demolition debris landfill which has been on fire and smoldering since 2005 all while releasing hydrogen sulfide and other toxins into the air. We represent more than 100 individuals who live in the homes surrounding the landfill. These are people who have had their health compromised and properties damaged. Landfill operations have contaminated the local groundwater with toxins including arsenic, benzene and TCE. We are working towards getting all prohibited and hazardous wastes removed from the landfill, getting the site cleaned up and closed down, as well compensating our clients for the harm and nuisances they have suffered. We have amended our Complaint to add a new defendant. We have also filed a motion to set the case for trial.
The Joiner Landfill in Milton, Florida, is another 20-plus acre construction and demolition debris landfill owned and operated by the same individuals who own and operate the Saufley Landfill. This landfill has been on fire and smoldering since October of 2006. Residents living around the Joiner Landfill have experienced the same objectionable odors and symptoms as those exposed to hydrogen sulfide at the other landfills. Local health department officials have measured hydrogen sulfide in neighboring communities at levels known to cause health impacts from chronic exposure. The air monitoring results are currently under review by an ATSDR toxicologist. We have filed suit and have begun litigating on our client’s behalf.
The Coyote Freeport Landfill is actually two separate permitted landfills next to each other, but operated as one, and owned and operated by the same company that caused all the harm to those living around the Coyote Navarre Landfill. In addition to the nuisance and possible adverse health effects caused by the Coyote Freeport Landfill, the site has also caused groundwater pollution impacting not only our clients’ private wells, but local wetlands and waterways. We are currently gathering and assessing data and information on behalf of our clients and we expect to file a lawsuit within the next few weeks.
There are a lot of things developing in this practice area. If you have any questions or comments on our Environmental Law Practice Group you can reach me toll free or via e-mail.