Cancer-Ravaged Family Says Plant Hid Toxic Studies

     ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CN) – A North Carolina couple and their son all developed cancer because manufacturing companies leaked toxins that contaminated their well, they claim in three federal complaints.
     Thomas Price, the father, was the first to face the upsetting diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2010, his complaint alleges. Thomas ultimately had his prostate removed, and his wife, Teresa, underwent a double mastectomy last year after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
     The Prices filed their lawsuits on Feb. 19, as son Aaron von Price “remains hospitalized,” undergoing chemotherapy to treat acute myelogenous leukemia.
     In all three complaints, the Prices say they were “never informed or notified of the contamination in the soil and groundwater at the neighboring plant any time prior to late 2013.”
     The plant in question consists of 12 acres of commercial property located at 121 Lytle Cove Rd., Swannanoa, N.C.
     Just across from the plant, the Prices have lived at 122 Lytle Cove Rd. since 1991.
     They say U.S. Gear Tools Inc., Textron Inc., and Micromatic LLC – manufacturers that used the plant over the years – had known since about 2005 that a phase II environmental assessment “confirmed the presence of dangerous chemicals and carcinogens in soil and groundwater at the plant at concentrations above their regulator standards.”
     The defendants “intentionally concealed the results of the Phase II environmental assessment and subsequent test results from plaintiff, and defendants willfully and recklessly failed to reveal, warn or otherwise notify plaintiff of the confirmed soil and groundwater contamination and the hazardous consequences thereof,” one of the complaints alleges.
     Also kept from the Prices was the fact that the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources pulled the plant under the purview of its Inactive Hazardous Sites Branch in 2007.
     The Prices say Textron negotiated a voluntary cleanup plan with the state Division of Waste Management in or around 2008 and 2009.
     Their complaints note that parties in the general area with an interest in the plant’s cleanup activities were supposed to be mailed a draft of this plan.
     But “a copy of the draft and corresponding notice of contamination was never mailed to plaintiffs; nor were plaintiffs identified as a potentially interested party,” the complaints allege.
     The Price family’s well, which was their primary source of bathing, cooking and drinking water, is within 500 feet of the plant, according to the complaint.
     They say they petitioned the state to test their well in late 2013 after other neighboring property owners notified them of the soil and groundwater contamination.
     Results of the multiple tests in 2014 “revealed extremely dangerous concentrations of PCE,” short for tetrachloroethylene, exceeding regulatory standards for safe consumption, the Prices say.
     Between 1986 and 2005, Textron and Micromatic used the plant to manufacture gear-fabrication equipment for the automotive industry, according to the complaints.
     The Prices say that the environmental tests were conducted in 2005 as part of the sale of the plant to U.S. Gear Tools.
     U.S. Gear Tools has allegedly been manufacturing spline and thread roll and gear finishing tooling at the plant.
     The Prices say all three companies used toxic solvents in the manufacturing process to clean parts and equipment, contaminating their groundwater with toxic solvents, including PCE, trichlorethylene (TCE), barium, and molybdenum.
     Despite the known contamination of PCE at the plant, the corresponding presence of PCE in the Prices’ well water, the companies “intentionally refused to install monitoring wells at various locations at the plant until the summer of 2014,” according to the complaint.
     Instructions by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to install test wells along the plant’s boundary next to Price’s property finally produced test results in late 2014 showing dangerous levels of PCE in the groundwater within feet of the Prices’ home, they say.
     The family seeks damages and injunctive relief for nuisance, negligence, trespass, strict liability, and fraud. Their lead counsel is Perry Fisher of Asheville.
     A small difference in the three complaints is that only one of the actions names AECOM, Textron’s environmental consultant, as a defendant.

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