On Thursday, residents of the Como neighborhood in Minneapolis filed a lawsuit in federal court against General Mills over chemical contamination that has been linked to vapor intrusion in their homes.
A news conference to discuss the lawsuit was held Friday at the office of Siegel Brill, P.A. The lawsuit accuses General Mills of negligence, trespass, willful and wanton misconduct, as well as maintaining a private nuisance through continued control of the facility.
The suit was brought by Karl Ebert and Carol Krauze, both for themselves and for other families affected by trichloroethylene (TCE) vapor contamination in the Como neighborhood.
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General Mills has not contested that the industrial solvent and degreaser was used and dumped at a research facility the company owned and operated in the area. Rather, they spent 25 years treating water in two contaminated aquifers; however, those efforts ended in 2010.
In early November, residents were notified that TCE vapor had been found in soil samples collected in the neighborhood, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is currently urging homeowners in the area to allow inspectors to perform tests in order to determine whether a ventilation system should be installed.
General Mills is covering the cost of the inspection and the ventilation systems, which work in much the same way radon mitigation systems do.
The lawsuit claims at least 200 properties are currently known to be affected by the contamination, many at extraordinarily high levels. Initial results recently became known, and while the MPCA puts a safety threshold at 20 units per cubic meter, some homes registered more than 15,000.
As further tests are conducted and completed, the number may increase, and the lawsuit asks that affected families be treated as a "class" so they can have their cases heard collectively.
The plaintiffs are seeking clean-up of the contamination, unspecified compensation for property damage linked to it, and other compensation since TCE is a known human carcinogen. A trial by jury has been requested.
The move in the courts comes at the heels of another announcement. On Saturday, Dec. 7, the chief investigator for Erin Brockovich will be in Minneapolis to speak with Como residents about the TCE contamination. He will be bringing a litigation team as well.