County Sues Ag and Fuel Companies for TCP in Water System

California’s Madera County filed a Superior Court of California complaint on Tuesday seeking damages, relief, and a jury trial that the DOW Chemical Company, Shell Oil Company, Occidental Chemical Corporation, J.R. Simplot Company, Puregro Company, Nutrien Ag Solutions Inc., and Wilbur-Ellis Company LLC, along with individuals associated with the companies, breached trespass, negligence, liability, and nuisance laws by allowing TCP into the county’s wells and failing to warn the county of the chemicals. 

The plaintiffs, which include two county maintenance districts, reported that they operate the public water systems and that the defendants have added additional costs to the county by contributing to contamination of the supply wells with 1,2,3-trichloropropane, also known as TCP. The chemical, reportedly a toxic substance used in some chemical products, was reportedly discharged by at least some of the defendants near the county’s supply wells and migrated into the groundwater. 

TCP can be found in products produced by the defendants, including some soil fumigant products used to control worms in planting and some non-agricultural products like solvents and extractive agents. The chemical reportedly does not stick to soil particles, but would instead sink through the dirt to the ground water. The complaint also explained that TCP does not biodegrade naturally and is therefore costly to remove. 

The complaint alleged that the defendants “knowingly and willfully manufactured, promoted and sold TCP Products,” despite their knowledge that it would pollute the groundwater and public drinking water, and have the potential to harm public health. 

Madera County, represented by Robins Borghei LLP, asked for the court to require the defendants to pay damages, including the funds to compensate the county for designing, installing, and maintaining treatment facilities to allow their water to meet federal and state standards and to remove all TCP from the water supply.