Water Contamination Suit Filed Against Dickson County, Tennessee
WASHINGTON, DC, March 10, 2008 (ENS) - The Natural Resources Defense Council and two residents of Dickson, Tennessee have filed a lawsuit against the Dickson County and city governments. They allege that trichloroethylene, TCE, an industrial chemical disposed at the Dickson Landfill that has been linked to neurological and developmental harm and cancer, poses an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.

Dickson, a town of some 12,000 people is located about 35 miles west of Nashville.

The Dickson County Landfill, 74 acres off Eno Road, sits within 500 to 2,000 feet of approximately 40 homes, most owned by blacks.

This community group is fighting to rid their area of contamination from the Dickson County landfill. (Photo courtesy Environmental Justice for All)

One African American family in particular, the Holts, a family of black landowners, has been especially harmed by the chemical. Many Holt family members are struggling with cancer and other illnesses, and two of its members are plaintiffs in this lawsuit.

The environmental group and Sheila Holt-Orsted and Beatrice Holt allege that TCE pollution has seeped beneath the landfill to underlying groundwater and has spread through a large area of Dickson County.

TCE contamination has rendered water from wells and springs as far as two to three miles from the landfill unfit for human consumption, the plaintiffs claim.

Polluted spring water is flowing directly into the West Piney River, a fishing stream and a major source of drinking water for the Water Authority of Dickson County. Several square miles of Dickson County have been recognized as an ‘imminent threat’ area by the county.

TCE contamination above drinking water limits, and orders of magnitude above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency screening levels for drinking water, has been found in at least one well even beyond that threat area.

In some areas, this TCE contamination may be growing worse, the plaintiffs claim, but the city and county have not done anything to remove the contamination.

"Some two decades after TCE was first detected in nearby drinking water sources, those responsible have not even fully characterized the present extent and likely future spread of the contamination. Defendants have, in effect, surrendered the ground and surface water of Dickson County to the slow spread of an invisible and toxic chemical," the complainants said in a statement.

The complaint asks the Court to require the defendants to investigate the present extent and future spread of TCE contamination from the landfill in the soil, surface water, and groundwater of Dickson County; to remediate and abate TCE contamination.

Holt-Orsted has undergone six surgeries and chemotherapy for breast cancer. The Holts originally filed lawsuits in 2003 and 2004, naming the city and county of Dickson and the state of Tennessee, and claiming the family was a victim of negligence that resulted in their cancers and other health problems.

Attorneys for the county and state deny the claims in the earlier lawsuits.

An article by Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, gives background and detailed water test information.

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