Proposed Solution to Water Contamination Could Spur Legal Action

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A proposed solution to well water contamination in North Pole could spur legal action against Flint Hills Refinery.  A lawyer representing a North Pole resident suing Flint Hills for sulfolane contamination, says the company’s offer of water treatment systems is not an adequate fix.  Attorney Jason Weiner also says accepting one could mean giving up a sizeable legal claims.

Weiner says the number reflects health and property value impacts.  Sulfolane contamination has affected about 150 North Pole properties, and some property owners have accepted deals with the company including free hookups to city water.  A judge recently turned down a request for a class action suit against Flint Hills. Weiner says the judge felt resident’s potential claims would vary too much.

Weiner says the judge also wanted to see additional plaintiffs come forward   So far only his client has filed suit, but he expects more to do so now that Flint Hills has presented the treatment systems, or installation of bulk water tanks, as its final solutions.  Flint Hills spokesman Jeff Cook says a water treatment is the best fix.

Cook says testing will continue before the water treatment systems are offered to residents.  He says Flint Hills will cover all installation and maintenance.

Cook could not comment on what legal releases residents might have to agree to.  The refinery began providing bottled water to effected residents after sulfolane was discovered in local wells about a year ago.  Sulfolane is a solvent used in the refining process.  Historic spills that occurred prior to Flint Hills buying the facility from Williams are blamed for pollution that’s migrated through ground water.  Flint Hills is installing 2 new wells to feed the city of North Pole municipal water system, as a precautionary measure.

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