The lawsuits, filed in the Rapides Parish Courthouse in Alexandria, La., claim residents of Pineville, La. and Alexandria were exposed to years of air, water and soil contamination by the wood treatment process at the two facilities. The plaintiffs claim the exposures have led to their serious health problems, including respiratory diseases, increased cancer rates and neurological conditions.
Colfax Treating, located in Pineville, and Durawood, located in Alexandria, are wood treatment facilities. Lawyers representing citizens in both cities say the medical problems their clients are experiencing in the two different communities are nearly identical, and coincide with problems that have been documented in other communities in which wood treatment plants are located. "Both of these facilities have been in operation for decades. During this time they have been aware of problems resulting from the chemicals and process they use to treat wood, but they have continued to release hazardous waste into the environment, putting the population at risk," says attorney James Cain, counsel for the plaintiffs.
Both companies use creosote to treat wood. Coal-tar creosote is the most widely used wood preservative in the United States. PCP (pentacholorphenaol) has been used for years at Colfax Treating. PCP and creosote contain substances that are toxic to humans, and additional toxic substances are produced throughout the treatment process, claim the residents. These chemicals include, but are not limited to, dioxin, lead, chromium, benzene, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phenol, naphthalene and cresols.
According to representatives of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, these toxic substances have been improperly handled and disposed of for years at both facilities, contaminating the air, the soil, surface water and ground water in the surrounding communities.
"Drips, spills, leaks, accidents, air emissions and waste disposal practices through the years by Durawood and Colfax Treating have led to widespread contamination in Pineville and Alexandria," says Cain.
Studies by EPA and other organizations have documented similar site contamination at wood preserving facilities across the country, along with associated health problems. EPA recommended discontinuing the use of creosote to treat wood. Numerous studies at other wood treatment facilities found clusters of leukemia and other cancers in areas adjacent to plants, and a statistically significant marked increase in birth defects in babies born to adults who had lived and played in neighborhoods near the contaminated sites as children.
"The corporations that have operated these facilities must accept responsibility for the serious health problems their negligence has caused," says Cain. "These communities have paid a high price for the negligence of these corporations and they must be held accountable for their actions."