LOCKPORT – The plaintiffs in the new Love Canal lawsuit have been given permission to add 10 more defendants to the suit, taking its history all the way back to 1977, when the Niagara Falls toxic disaster was first revealed.
Three Niagara Falls families filed suit 11 months ago, alleging that a January 2011 discharge of chemicals from a sewer pipe under repair near the former toxic dump site led to serious health problems.
One of their attorneys, Paul K. Barr of Niagara Falls, filed a motion to expand the case with more targets.
Occidental Chemical Corp., whose corporate predecessor, Hooker Chemical Co., dumped the toxic waste in the first place, was among the defendants added to the suit in an order signed last week by Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III.
Others included CECOS International and Sevenson Environmental Services, which worked on an unsuccessful 1978 effort to contain the leaking waste.
Companies involved more recently, also added to the suit, include Miller Springs Remediation Management, Op-Tech Environmental Services, Scott Lawn Yard, Kandey Co., Gross PHC, Ray’s Plumbing and Edward S. Roberts.
They are all added to the original defendants in the $113 million suit: the City of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Falls Water Board, Glenn Springs Holdings and Conestoga-Rovers & Associates.
Miller Springs, an Occidental subsidiary, has been part of the management of the 70-acre Love Canal containment structure since 1998, according to the plaintiff’s amended complaint.
Glenn Springs and Conestoga-Rovers were involved in managing the containment structure from 1995 onward, the suit charges.
The Op-Tech, Scott, Kandey and Gross firms allegedly took part in recent sewer rehabilitations in the neighborhood. The Gross firm is the corporate successor of Gross Plumbing and Heating.
Ray’s Plumbing did work in the 93rd Street home of four of the plaintiffs – Zachary and Melanie Herr and their two children – around the time of the 2011 chemical discharge, the suit alleges.
Roberts, president of Conestoga-Rovers, also was added to the suit.
The original defendants opposed the additions, but Murphy said the suit is so new that no prejudice or significant inconvenience would occur.
“Indeed, it is highly likely that even further refinements of the complaint will occur, upon inclusion of the multitude of additional plaintiffs who are reported to have recently filed notices of claim,” Murphy wrote.
There are 596 potential new plaintiffs, at least one-third of whom no longer live in Niagara Falls, The Buffalo News reported earlier this month.
After the sides share evidence, a process lawyers call discovery, “Defendants will be in a better position to move in a more surgical manner against any defective parties or claims,” the judge wrote.
Murphy ordered all sides back to his courtroom May 3 for a status update on newly involved parties and to make a discovery schedule.
Murphy also signed an order requiring the city and the Water Board to give the plaintiffs between 48 hours’ and 96 hours’ notice of any water or sewer work in the Love Canal area. The plaintiffs must be allowed to have representatives present to take photographs and samples of excavated materials.
If the work is an emergency, such as a water main break, and the plaintiffs can’t have anyone arrive in time, the city must preserve samples of the material excavated to share with the plaintiffs, Murphy ruled.