A group of more than 90 current and former residents of Endicott, New York launched legal action against IBM on 3 January, alleging that the company's manufacturing operations in the area caused decades of environmental contamination that made them sick.
In a 43-page lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that IBM, which built computers, circuit boards, integrated circuits and related goods at its Endicott facilities from 1924 through 2002, failed to protect residents from harm from the toxic chemicals used in manufacturing.
Among the substances used at the Endicott site, according to the lawsuit, were "millions of gallons of various industrial chemicals, including Trichloroethylene (TCE), Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), Trichloroethane (TCA), Benzene and Trichlorotrifluoroethane (Freon 113). The Endicott plantwas later sold.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs point to a range of health problems that they blame on the discharge, release, emission or leakage of the chemicals and their waste products from the IBM plant; the suit alleges that the chemicals leaked into the air, soil and local groundwater contaminating nearby homes and businesses.
The substances "were contaminants and pollutants to the environment and constituted toxins to persons who became exposed to them through ingestion, inhalation, or dermal absorption (through the skin)," the suit said.
IBM spokesman Michael Maloney said the lawsuit is without merit. "As we explained to plaintiffs' lawyers before they filed this case, these suits have no basis in science or law, and IBM will defend itself vigorously."
IBM said it already addressed Endicott residents' health concerns by starting an extensive groundwater remediation program in 1979 under the guidance of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
"Over the years, that program has included the installation of hundreds of extraction and investigation wells and enhancements to the existing wastewater treatment system," according to IBM. The extraction wells were added to remove any vapours from the soils in the area.