It looks like the Walt Disney Company won’t be getting out of a court case any time soon, according to a recent article by the Burbank Leader.
The nonprofit group Environmental World Watch and a handful of Burbank, Calif., residents are suing the movie company for polluting its surrounding property with chromium 6, a toxic chemical also commonly referred to as hexavalent chromium.
Hexavalent chromium may sound familiar -- it was made famous in a legal battle and subsequent movie about lawyer and environmental advocate Erin Brockovich, who sued the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for contaminating the drinking water in Hinkley, Calif., with the chemical.
Hexavalent chromium was also in the news last August after California officials proposed a new health goal for chromium 6 in drinking water that is thousands of times lower than the amount currently present in some water supplies.
According to the EPA, hexavalent chromium is a human carcinogen, so it's not surprising that residents in the Burbank area are suspicious that the cancer-causing toxins may have led to the deaths of dogs, horses and some residents.
The plaintiffs claim that the contamination occurred after Disney discharged water laced with chromium 6 from its air-cooling systems through well-water disposal lines and pipes for several decades. These contaminants then made their way through the pipes and emptied into streets, eventually ending up in the Los Angeles River as well as the aquifer below Los Angeles-owned Polliwog Park, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs maintain that Disney continued to dump chromium 6 even after the EPA banned its use in air-cooling systems in 1990 and that the contamination is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Disney officials, however, have denied all of the charges levied in the lawsuits, citing a 2006 soil investigation by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control that found chromium levels in the area “below levels of concern.”
A spokesman for the company added that Disney has simply not used chromium 6 on its property.
Attorneys for Disney had sought to dismiss the case by arguing that “the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act causes of action should be dismissed because plaintiffs fail to identify a hazardous waste … and fail to describe where and when the hazardous waste allegedly was disposed in the last five years,” according to court records.
But U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson is allowing the case to stand because it involves plaintiffs and federal claims that were not part of the other lawsuits, and some of which were eventually dismissed in Superior Court.
Meanwhile, the attorney for the plaintiffs, C. Brooks Cutter, has filed similar cases in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of Environmental World Watch and several residents.