(CN) - A Louisiana appeals court sided with Cow Island residents who claimed their drinking water was contaminated with arsenic from cattle dip used to kill ticks.
Residents argued that Cooper's Cattle Dip caused cancer rates in their community to skyrocket after its harmful chemicals seeped into their drinking water, raising the arsenic levels in some instances up to 80 times the amount allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The trial court ruled for the cattle dip's maker, Velsicol Chemical Corp., finding that eradication of the ticks outweighed any danger the cattle dip posed to public health.
But the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles, La., reversed.
Judge Sylvia Cooks said the product's benefits were diminished by Velsicol's failure to include warnings or information on how to clean up the chemicals.
"For all the utility the cattle dip may have offered by way of eradicating ticks carrying dangerous diseases, a reasonable factfinder might very well conclude the arsenic laden dip was unreasonably dangerous especially when used without proper warnings," Cooks wrote.
She also rejected the lower court's finding that the product was not dangerous per se.
"It is true plaintiffs ultimately bear the burden of proving that the high concentrations of arsenic in their groundwater, used for drinking and other purposes, came from Cooper's Cattle Dip," Cooks wrote. "The evidence in the record at this stage of the proceedings is certainly sufficient to show arsenic in fact has entered the community water system and may be causing serious health problems for the residents."
Large vats filled with high concentrations of arsenic were used to dip cattle until 1970. The cows were then left to dry in closed pens next to the plaintiffs' property, the poisonous chemicals dripping off the cattle and eventually seeping into the soil and water.
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