Weitz & Luxenberg Sues Birds Eye Foods Over Alleged Pollutant Discharge

NEW YORK - Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. on May 17 filed a lawsuit on behalf of more than 70 Fennville, Mich., residents who allege that their properties have been contaminated and their health has been harmed by chemical pollutants that have entered the environment as a result of the Birds Eye food processing facility in their neighborhood (Michael Barnes, et al. v. Birds Eye Foods LLC, No. 10-46699-NO, Mich. Cir., Allegan Co.).

 "For decades, Fennville residents have been contending with well water that has been tainted with dangerous chemicals," said Robin Greenwald, the head of the Weitz & Luxenberg Environmental and Toxic Torts litigation unit.

The seven-count complaint alleges that for decades, the Birds Eye facility at 100 Sherman St. has sprayed wastewater containing chemical pollutants onto fields in the area. This spraying operation ultimately led to hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater being absorbed into the region's groundwater, it contends. That wastewater triggered a chemical reaction in the soil, causing unsafe levels of manganese, arsenic and iron to leach into the groundwater that feeds Fennville residents' wells, the suit alleges.

According to the lawsuit:

Birds Eye failed to take appropriate and timely action to test the region for groundwater contamination, only beginning to do so after receiving a 2005 order from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Despite the investigation, Birds Eye continues to spray wastewater into open fields at the Fennville facility, which drains into the ground and continues to contaminate the area's well water.

As a result of the groundwater contamination plume, those living in homes that relied on well water have faced property damage, reduction in the value of their homes, property values, the loss of use and enjoyment of their property, damage to pipes and plumbing fixtures and damage to water treatment and other home appliances that were used with the tainted well water.

In addition, the plaintiffs risk serious health problems linked to the unsafe levels of iron, arsenic and manganese. Exposure to manganese in water can cause damage to the nervous system; exposure to high levels of iron can cause damage to internal organs such as the liver and pancreas. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen and exposure to lower levels can cause nausea, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm and damage to blood vessels.

Weitz & Luxenberg, founded in 1986, is one of the leading plaintiffs' litigation law firms in America.

Download the complaint here.