Monday, April 19, 2010

Suit Against Disney Over Burbank Contaminated Groundwater

Judge allows suit against Disney to move forward

Desert Sun Wire services • April 19, 2010

A judge said today he was inclined to allow two lawsuits that allege The Walt Disney Co. for decades contaminated groundwater with toxic chemicals to move forward.

One of the cases was filed in March 2009 by Burbank homeowner Dennis Jackson and his two children, Matthew and Jennifer Jackson. They allege Disney has dumped wastewater contaminated with hexavalent chromium from its on-site cooling systems since 1998 and that the pollutants caused the death of Louise Jackson, wife of Dennis and mother of Matthew and Jennifer.

The second complaint was a nuisance suit filed in January by another Burbank resident, Lorraine Baptist.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu issued a tentative ruling Friday stating that after three revisions, the Jackson suit contains enough details explaining why the family did not file its lawsuit sooner. Disney attorneys maintain the Jacksons knew of their claims by January 2007 and that most of them, including those for nuisance, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, are now barred by the statute of limitations.

The Baptist complaint was challenged on similar grounds. After hearing arguments from attorneys today, Treu he said he was taking the cases under submission and would issue a final ruling later.

In their complaint, the Jacksons explain they did not know that Disney allegedly dumped the chemicals into their neighborhood until February 2009, a month after the watchdog group Environmental World Watch Inc. concluded an investigation and obtained the information from the company.

Other plaintiffs have filed similar claims against Disney. According to the various complaints, contaminated runoff flowed down the centerline of Parkside Avenue, toward Parish Place and across Riverside Drive into the Polliwog, an 11-acre parcel next to the studio's Imagineering facilities.

Disney for years has dumped vast amounts of cancer-causing chromium 6, air cooling water chemicals and other various toxic waste materials, according to the lawsuits.

Disney attorneys have denied any wrongdoing on the part of the company.

Environmental World Watch, a Delaware corporation with offices in North Hollywood, was hired by the Burbank Rancho Home Owners Assn. in February 2006 to investigate the proposed construction of a sewer line in the area.

EWW tested the Polliwog parcel, which is part of Burbank but is owned by Los Angeles, in its challenge to a tentative environmental impact report. Agency officials said they found “significant quantities” of chromium 6, according to the lawsuits.

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