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Homeowners Sue Firms for Fouled Water Wells

Mar 18, 1996 | Plastics News A Superfund cleanup site in Sag Harbor is the source of a $200 million lawsuit brought by 33 homeowners against Nabisco Inc., which once manufactured motorized plastic toy cars at a plant on the property.
The homeowners, represented by Great Neck, N.Y., law firm Parker & Waichman, are seeking damages resulting from the alleged dumping of toxic solvents used to clean the cars' metal motors. The civil suit, filed in Suffolk County court March 6, names Nabisco, Rowe Industries Inc., Sag Harbor Industries Inc. and A.U. Products Corp., also known as Aurora Plastics, as defendants, said Jerrold Parker, a lawyer at Parker & Waichman.

Rowe and Aurora are defunct companies that consecutively owned the plant and property before Nabisco bought them in the early 1970s, according to Environmental Protection Agency records.
In 1980, the site was sold to Sag Harbor Industries, a family-owned firm that makes electronic devices.

Nabisco spokeswoman Caro-line Fee confirmed the civil suit, but said the Parsippany, N.J.-based company had no comment on it.

In 1984, EPA uncovered groundwater tainted with tetrachloro-ethene and trichloroethene, which originated from the solvents Rowe, then later Aurora, used to degrease its small, oil-coated metal motors for the electric cars, said Pamela Tames, EPA project manager. Those solvents had been stored both in dry wells and in drums that leaked, she said.

Parker said most of Sag Harbor's homeowners have wells, which were contaminated along with the aquifer that feeds them. For the most part, his clients are seeking property damages, but ''some people are claiming personal injury,'' he said by phone March 11. He declined to provide details.

Tames called Sag Harbor a ''fairly rural'' area. Under an EPA Superfund agreement, Nabisco and Sag Harbor Industries designed a cleanup plan that Nabisco will begin implementing in April.

About 6,000 people within a 3-mile radius of the site use groundwater as their primary source of drinking water, EPA said.

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