Three federal environmental lawsuits that a South Charleston company has filed against Union Carbide Corp. have become one.
Senior U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. granted the Courtland Company’s motion Tuesday to consolidate three lawsuits it filed against Union Carbide alleging the corporation is discharging stormwater pollutants onto its neighboring property.
Copenhaver ruled consolidating the three lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia over a 30-month span would likely reduce the overall time, burden and expense for the court, parties and witnesses.
Copenhaver denied the Courtland Company’s request to hold the consolidated trial in three phases, opining that doing so could result in even greater burdens on the parties, court and witnesses than holding separate trials for the three actions.
The judge was not persuaded by Union Carbide’s arguments that the cases don’t consist of “common questions of law or facts.”
Attorneys for the Courtland Company and Union Carbide could not be reached for comment.
The Courtland Company, a landholding business that owns property near Davis Creek, requested the lawsuits be consolidated in March, a month after it filed a suit alleging a Union Carbide-owned toxic dumping site — known as the Filmont landfill — located near the creek and the West Virginia Regional Technology Park, was violating the federal Clean Water Act.
The ruling in favor of consolidation came five days after Copenhaver dismissed some but not all of Courtland’s claims against Union Carbide in that suit.
The first of the Courtland Company’s three lawsuits came in August 2018, when Courtland alleged groundwater contaminants were migrating from Union Carbide property onto Courtland property.
The Courtland Company cited a 2017 Courtland-funded investigation the company said revealed arsenic, barium, lead, selenium and other contaminants on its property that also were present in Union Carbide facility groundwater.
The existence of the little-documented Filmont landfill was revealed in an October 2019 deposition of Union Carbide’s remediation leader.
Two months later, the Courtland Company filed a lawsuit against Union Carbide alleging the corporation disposed of hazardous waste and substances from the 1950s through the 1980s at the Filmont landfill.
Filings show that Union Carbide had been monitoring the Filmont site and, in 2010, prepared a PowerPoint presentation for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in which it pledged to “maintain the inactive landfill as it currently exists.”
Courtland’s February lawsuit alleged that leachate from Union Carbide’s disposal site containing hazardous waste and substances was still being discharged into Davis Creek and the Kanawha River without a proper permit. The suit alleged Union Carbide was discharging toxic pollutants including arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead, selenium and mercury into Davis Creek and two other waterways, Ward Branch and South Boundary Creek.
Orange sludge deposits were heavy where waste liquid flowed from the dump and along a creek bank into Ward Branch in January, according to a declaration from Scott Simonton, professor at Marshall University and former vice chairman of the Environmental Quality Board, filed by the Courtland Company in February.
Copenhaver last month denied Courtland’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction directing Union Carbide to stop all discharges from the site into nearby waters within 14 days. Copenhaver found that Courtland had not presented sufficient evidence that pollutants discharged from the Filmont site to a drainage ditch and Ward Branch, another nearby waterway, are being deposited on its property.