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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Alabamans Says Smelter Fouled Their Homes

(CN) - A now-demolished industrial plant in Birmingham, Ala., was responsible for contaminating the residential area that surrounds it with hazardous emissions, a group of alleged victims claim in court.

Jefferson County, Ala., resident Michael Adams, along with over 40 of his neighbots, filed suit last week against U.S. Pipe and Foundry Company, Mueller Water Products Inc. and USP Holdings Inc. in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

The complaint accuses the companies, which owned and operated the plant, of polluting their north Birmingham neighbors with a variety of hazardous emissions.

According to the plaintiffs, the pollutants included, among other things, "lead, benzene, xylenes, beryllium, volatile organic compounds ... and other hazardous substances and waste materials."

The plaintiffs claim that the contaminants had an "adverse effect upon human health and the natural environment in which the Plaintiffs lived, worked, and/or frequented."

The plant in question began operations in 1901 as an iron foundry owned and operated by The Dimmick Pipe Company. It was subsequently purchased by U.S. Pipe in 1911 and then in 1969 by the Jim Walter Corporation of Tampa, Fla.

In 2006, U.S. Pipe and Foundry was spun off with Mueller Water Products into a new, publicly-traded company called Mueller Water Products Inc. Mueller later sold U.S. Pipe and Foundry to USP Holdings, and the Birmingham plant was ultimately demolished in April 2012.

Over the course of its long history, the plant operated a "cupola melting furnace," which was used to melt iron.

The complaint says such furnaces "produce a collection of particulate emissions, some of which are captured and disposed of as solid and/or liquid wastes through landfills and wastewater ponds on site and some of which escaped into the air."

Plaintiffs also contend that contamination occurred via "discharge into waterways and ground soil."

Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege the defendants knew about the contamination for years, but failed to disclose it to local residents.

"Just since 1985, the Plant has been cited in excess of 100 times for citations or violations of state and federal environmental regulations for their operation of the Plant. At least one such violation directly resulted from the release of excess lead in wastewater flowing from the Plant," the complaint says.

It specifically makes claims of negligence, wantonness, fraud, conspiracy, negligence per se and battery.

Some of the specific neighborhoods affected by the plant's conduct include Collegeville, North Birmingham, Fairmont and Harriman Park.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jon Conlin and R. Andrew Jones of Cory Watson PC in Birmingham.

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