A class action lawsuit against General Mills has been given the go ahead by Minneapolis district court judge Donovan Frank. From 1940-1960 General Mills used “soil absorption pits” to dispose of TCE cleaning solvents which General Mills claimed was “customary for the times”. Residents in areas around the disposal sites are claiming that soil and groundwater contamination has reached their homes and created an unsafe environment. General Mills paid for vapor mitigation systems in 118 homes after an assessment indicated the presence of TCE vapors in the area. The plaintiffs claim that vapors persist and have concerns over long and short term health implications.
Plaintiffs expert Dr Everett stated that tests indicated large amounts of toxic chemicals, TCE among them, has resulted in “widespread soil contamination”, and found no other sources other than the General Mills disposal site. Two other local businesses were investigated but no evidence of actions that could add to the contamination were found.
General Mills argued that other businesses could have contributed to the contamination and also that TCE was also commonly found in household products which could explain high levels inside homes. They also argued that contamination beneath the home was not an injury in or of itself but the court disagreed. The judge stated “Plaintiffs here allege that all houses in the class area are contaminated and that all members have been injured by that contamination. Plaintiffs present evidence that TCE is a carcinogen and that the entire area will need to be remediated”.
TCE has been associated with liver, kidney and blood cancers with long term exposure and short term exposure could possibly cause immune system weakness.