Homeowners sue Boeing over groundwater contamination

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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Algona, Wash. —

Homeowners in Algona have filed a federal lawsuit against Boeing and its environmental contractor, Landau Associates, over contaminated groundwater. The lawsuit includes 116 plaintiffs who allege they were exposed to chemicals like trichloroethylene, or TCE. The cancer-causing chemical was in a solvent used by Boeing to clean airplane parts in the 1960s.

 Larry Altose, a spokesperson for the Washington Department of Ecology, said, “Over time it has spread about a mile north of Boeing's property.”

 According to the lawsuit, they seek eight categories of damages: loss of property value, remediation costs, repair or restoration costs, value of the trespass and interference with use and enjoyment of property, medical costs, the cost of future medical monitoring, attorneys’ fees and consequential damages. The lawsuit also states the amount in controversy for each plaintiff exceeds $75,000, although no specific amount is listed.

 KIRO 7 first reported last spring that water in Algona could be contaminated.

 Boeing has been paying for tests of groundwater, surface water and indoor air samples. The process has been supervised by the Washington Department of Ecology, with state employees occasionally accompanying testers in the field. So far test results have shown either little or minimal levels of toxic chemicals. The Washington Department of Health spokesperson said the low levels detected were not enough to be harmful to human health. But some residents in Algona don’t believe that.

Marie McAskill, who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said, she moved out of her rental home on 11th Avenue last month.

PDF: Lawsuit filed against Boeing

 “I had to have my child tested for allergies; I had mold tested in the house. I was like, what's going on? Why are they so sick?” McAskill said.

 She said her son kept suffering from nosebleeds, swollen glands and a weakened immune system, none of which doctors could explain.

 Sandy Haugen, who also lives on the same street, is not party to the lawsuit. Still, she and her husband are concerned enough to have only planted flowers this year instead of vegetables. Haugen said she would rather not eat anything grown on her property.

“If we wanted to sell our house, we couldn't. No one would buy the house, first of all,” Haugen said.

 Another plaintiff, who would not speak on camera, said she and her husband both had cancer. She knows it would be difficult to prove, but she believes it was a result of the toxic chemicals.

 Boeing told KIRO 7 in a statement: “Boeing has been conducting thorough investigation and cleanup activities under the direction of the Washington State Department of Ecology to identify and address any potential soil and groundwater impacts from our Auburn plant. We are cooperating fully with government authorities in this effort. Boeing does not believe that there is any merit to the allegations in the lawsuit, and we intend to vigorously defend against these claims.”

Altose said the Department of Ecology will continue to monitor water and air quality by installing larger wells in the area, through which officials can track levels of toxins and the path of the plume over time. He said it may be years before a plan for cleanup is provided to the public.

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