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DeSoto County Residents Sue CSX Over Contaminants

Dec 16, 2004 | AP

Eight residents of A small southwest Florida community sued CSX Transportation Corp. Thursday, alleging a company facility that treated lumber with preservatives released cancer-causing contaminants into the air, soil and groundwater.

The $500 million lawsuit filed in Circuit Court in DeSoto County alleged negligence and claimed the site was a public nuisance. The plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that they and their relatives have either suffered cancer or a decline in property value because of contaminants from the facility.

The company preserved railroad ties and other timbers by treating them with a coal tar, creosote and arsenic mixture in two large pits on the 25-acre site. The pits weren't lined with protective barriers to stop the mixture from saturating the soil or leaching into the groundwater, according to the lawsuit.

The preservation process also created hazardous waste in the form of vapor condensate and sludge, the lawsuit said.

"It is difficult to believe that such a site can exist without some type of mandated clean up to protect families that, through, no fault of their own, find themselves living next to and drinking water that contains life threatening carcinogens," said Archie Lamb, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys.

But company spokesman Gary Sease said CSX has monitored the site since 1983 and that reports from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health have shown no threat to public health.

"There are places where there are contaminants but we are confident that those have been isolated and do not pose an exposure hazard to the public," Sease said. "The attorney's statements today do not reflect the data or the company's proactive stewardship of the environment and community."

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