IBM face legal action over pollution at former New York plant

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.

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Ellen Relkin, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said the suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a jury trial. The suit does not include a dollar figure for the damages being sought.

"The pollution has been going on for decades," Relkin said. "It's only recently that it's been discovered to be intruding into our clients' homes and businesses."

While IBM spent money on remediation systems in the area, that is only a partial fix, she said. The remediation systems are essentially air strippers that remove the substances from the air, but contamination still underground will continue to be a problem as long as it is there, she said.

According to the suit, IBM "should have known that the volatile organic chemicals that [it] had wrongfully discharged into the air, soils and groundwater, and which had contaminated the groundwater beneath the Village of Endicott and the Town of Union, would remain volatile in the soil for substantial periods of time, exceeding decades, and would migrate, as vapours, into the homes, businesses, schools and churches located above the contaminated groundwater plume."

As a result, the plaintiffs argue that they are at increased risk for future serious illnesses due to the chemical exposure. One plaintiff alleges that he developed kidney cancer due to contamination, while others allege that they are undergoing continuing medical monitoring due to concerns about chemical exposure.

In addition to individual residents, the lawsuit includes one business and one church as plaintiffs.

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