Six sue former Mo. plant owners for illnessess

Thursday, August 28, 2008

CAMERON, Mo. -- Six residents of this northwest Missouri town have filed lawsuits against the owners of a long-closed insulation factory that they claim helped cause a rash of brain cancers and other illnesses.

The six residents filed a total of five lawsuits in Clinton County demanding monetary damages from companies linked to Rockwool Industries. That company, which turned iron into fiber insulation at a plant three miles west of Cameron, dissolved in 1991.

The lawsuits allege Rockwool dumped toxic substances at or near the plant between 1974 and 1982, including land where the plaintiffs lived. They also claim the company buried hazardous waste near the plant and in a nearby quarry.

Last week, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency told about 250 residents that its tests of soil and water near the plant and the quarry showed high levels of lead and arsenic in some areas but not enough to threaten health.

Sixty-eight people in Cameron have returned state surveys reporting cases of benign or malignant brain tumors, part of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' investigation into whether there is a cancer cluster in the town 50 miles north of Kansas City.

The lawsuits were filed by Cameron residents Cyndee Gardner, Carol Helms, Rebecca Stewart, Michael O'Loughlin, and Hope and Steve Soldberg. None of the plaintiffs indicated they had developed brain tumors, although some of their relatives have. The cases seek class-action status to potentially allow thousands of Cameron residents to receive damages.

The cases were filed against Susquehanna Corp. of Delaware, which the lawsuits say owned and managed Rockwool, as well as Susquehanna's parent company, Eteroutremer of Belgium. The suits also name as defendant Loren Brookshier, a Cowgill, Mo., resident who the suits say is a former Rockwool manager.

An e-mail to Eteroutremer's parent company, Etex Group of Belgium, wasn't immediately returned Wednesday. A phone number for Brookshier wasn't listed and Susquehanna officials couldn't be reached for comment.

The lawsuits don't say whether the plaintiffs worked at the plant.

Health officials analyzing the surveys of tumor victims are looking to see a common thread, such as where the people lived or worked and the type of tumors they developed.

Information from: The Kansas City Star,

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