Bank Sued After Toxic Fire

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A Wells Fargo agent caused a disastrous fire and chemical spill during an auction, releasing phosphoric acid, antifreeze, oil, benzene and other chemicals into the air and ground, an investment company claims in Federal Court.

     Harwood Investment Co. says Wells Fargo must answer for the negligence of its agent, Rabin Worldwide. During the auction, “Someone was welding a piece of industrial machinery in order to dismantle it and the sparks caught some sawdust on fire,” said Harwood’s attorney Christopher Neary.
     The sawdust fire spread to a storage building housing phosphoric acid, antifreeze, hydraulic oil, benzene and other chemicals. Neary said the fire could have been put out within minutes, but Rabin had failed to ensure that the onsite fire hoses were in working order.
     “The hose didn’t have any water in it,” Neary said. “Rabin was responsible for conducting an ultra hazardous (auction) with no fire protection despite the fact that the fire department gave an order to make sure it was functional.”
The complaint also alleges that Wells Fargo and Rabin “allowed water to build up in the dip tank building so that it overtopped its containment,” releasing more phosphoric acid and other toxins into the soil.
     Neary said the extent of the damage and cost of cleanup has yet to be determined. “The State Water Resources Control Board is reviewing our report and the regional board will determine what remediation activities are required,” he said.
     Harwood demands Wells Fargo and Rabin be jointly held liable for the contamination and that they pay the cleanup expenses for violating the Comprehensive Environmental Compensation and Liability Act.
     “Bankruptcy court authorized Wells Fargo to conduct the sale. The master has responsibility over the actions of its agent,” Neary said.

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