Community Members Say Case Alleging Pollution of Water Must Stay in State Court

A case alleging drinking water pollution was friviously removed by the defendants, who include Raytheon, to the Northern District of Indiana, plaintiffs allege in a motion to remand filed on Thursday. The plaintiffs alleged companies involved in a former United Technologies Automotive site (UTA) removed the case to delay a hearing on an Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction and are putting lives and property at risk.

The plaintiffs in the case claimed “subsurface plumes of contamination: have contaminated Andrews, Indiana’s drinking water aquifer and have also entered utility lines and sewers. “The toxic vapors caused by Defendants’ hazardous chemical releases migrated throughout the Town’s utility lines, and have entered Plaintiffs’ homes and properties through vapor intrusion,” the complaint states.

The hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning, and the counsel for both parties held a meeting to discuss the hearing on Wednesday morning, the plaintiffs allege there was no mention of removal at the hearing. They claimed the removal is “frivolous and wholly without merit” and is “based upon the supposed existence of a federal question.”

The 77 community members brought causes of trespass, nuisance, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent failure to warn, and Environmental Legal Action against the defendants. They argued an emergency response is needed because the residents are without enough drinking water and cite that their Fire Department does not have sufficient access to water. They claimed the case does not include federal questions that would merit a move to the district court.

“The Raytheon Defendants’ Notice of Removal is a shameful and reckless attempt to delay the Town from receiving a timely hearing on its Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the effect of which is to prolong the period in which the nearly 1,200 residents of the Town are stuck without an adequate supply of clean water,” the plaintiff’s motion to remand states.

The residents claimed employees at UTA dumped barrels of waste from the vapor degreaser and other hazardous chemicals onto the ground by the plant. They alleged dangerously “high levels of TCE” in the areas around the plant. They also say the gas station release gasoline into the ground which has entered the groundwater and Andrews’ sewer system.

The initial complaint was filed on June 19 in Huntington Superior Court, it asks for the defendants to compensate the plaintiffs for damages and upgrade the town’s water supply. The residents and the town of Andrews, Indiana are represented by Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.  Operators of the UTA site, Raytheon Technologies Corporation, Lear Corporation EEDS and Interiors LLC, and CP Product LLC are represented by Barnes & Thornburg LLP. The remaining defendants, who owned or operate a gas station on the site, do not yet have counsel in the case.