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Redlands doing legal battle with Shell Oil

SAN BERNARDINO SUN

Posted: 02/19/2010 04:18:29 PM PST

REDLANDS – City attorneys entered into a jury trial in early February in an attempt to get Shell Oil Company to clean up a mess the city says Shell made. The city launched a lawsuit against Shell in 2004 over contaminated ground water. The lawsuit began a jury trial Feb. 4.

“The city brought the lawsuit to be proactive,” said Chris Diggs, the city’s water resources manager. “We want to ensure the sufficient supply of safe drinking water.”

Shell manufactured the chemical product D-D that farmers injected into the soil to kill nematodes – tiny worms that can attack root systems and kill crops. The use of D-D is common by farmers, but Diggs said Shell included an uncommon – and unnecessary – chemical.

Shell put another chemical called Trichloropropane, or TCP – a chemical leftover in the manufacturing process – into the D-D compound, Diggs said. Chemical manufacturers are required to incinerate the chemical to dispose of it. But Shell instead hid the TCP in the D-D, Diggs said.

“They would add the TCP to the D-D to get rid of it,” he said.

And the farmers injected the D-D into the ground.

Diggs said city staffers noticed traces of TCP in its groundwater a few years before the city launched its 2004 lawsuit. The city shut down its groundwater wells where the TCP was detected.

Diggs could not be specific on how many groundwater wells have been shut down because of the way the contamination works.

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