California city in 10-year legal battle over groundwater contamination awarded damages

After a week-long trial, a federal jury has awarded the City of Pomona $48 million in damages from SQM North America Corp., a subsidiary of a large Chilean mining company, for the costs of cleanup of the toxic chemical perchlorate from the city’s groundwater supply. Fertilizer sold by SQMNA and used for decades in the citrus orchards of Pomona had been tainted with perchlorate which ended up in Pomona’s drinking water supplies.   

“After 10 long years, Pomona has achieved its goal which is to make sure that the citizens of our city will not have to pay the cost of cleaning up a mess created by a large foreign corporation doing business in our city,” said Pomona  City Manager James Makshanoff. “This is not only a win for our community, but it is a win for all communities because it tells big corporations who are polluting our water and threatening the health of our citizens that they will be brought to justice. The city is grateful to our attorneys at SL Environmental Law Group whose expertise and perseverance were critical to the successful outcome of our case.” 

Perchlorate is a toxic chemical that can be particularly harmful to children as it disrupts hormones needed for healthy growth and development. The presence of perchlorate in 14 of its drinking water wells created substantial additional water treatment expenses for Pomona, including building and operating a specialized plant to remove the contaminant from its water. After the source of the perchlorate was identified as a contaminant in sodium nitrate fertilizer imported from Chile by SQMNA, the city filed a products liability lawsuit against the corporation.

Ken Sansone, partner at SL Environmental Law Group and lead attorney for Pomona, added: “The civic leaders of the City of Pomona should be commended for standing up on behalf of their citizens against a large international corporation to make sure that the company that created this pollution pays to clean it up. SQMNA fought hard for nearly a decade, but justice prevailed. We are honored to have had the opportunity to fight for the city and satisfied with the outcome.”

Source: SL Environmental Law Group

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