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Claim for the Failure to Remove Contaminated Soil Draws to a Close

A claim for the failure to remove contaminated soil appears to be reaching a $120 million conclusion in the near future – subject to agreement by residents.

The Carousel housing complex in Carson, California, was built in the 1970s and 1980s on land that had been used previously to store crude oil storage tanks. When the land was sold to Barclay Hollander, the developer was supposed to have removed any contaminated soil before construction started, but instead removed only the top layer of soil and replaced it with concrete before laying fresh topsoil.

At the beginning of the last decade, residents of the 285-home complex noticed sludge bubbling up in their lawns. This coincided with an increase in the local rates of cancer, blood diseases and asthma. Tests conducted on the soil in 2008 revealed high levels of petroleum contamination, while high levels of benzene and methane gas were identified in vapor tests.

A claim for the failure to remove contaminated soil was made by the Home Owners Association against Shell Oil – the former owners of the land – and Dole Foods, who had acquired Barclay Hollander. In 2011 Shell Oil was found liable for the contaminated soil and ordered to remove it. The clean-up operation is expected to last six years and cost the company $148 million.

However, former and current residents of the Carousel housing complex pursued their claim for the failure to remove contaminated soil to compensate them for the personal injuries they had suffered and for the deterioration in the value of their homes. Now an agreement has been reached that will see Shell Oil pay $90 million compensation and Dole Foods $30 compensation.

The proposed settlement is still subject to agreement by the residents involved in the class action. If the settlement of the claim for the failure to remove contaminated soil is agreed, a court-appointed expert in mediation and arbitration will assess each plaintiff´s claim to establish how much compensation each will receive based on the extent of emotional and physical injury suffered.