Defendant Ordered to Preserve Docs in Cameron Brain Tumor Lawsuit

Days after a lawsuit was filed against a tannery that allegedly provided waste sludge containing dangerous chemicals to local farmers for use as fertilizer, a judge has issued a temporary restraining order preventing the current owner of the company from destroying thousands of documents. The complaint indicates that the toxic sludge may have caused the development of a cluster of brain tumors in Cameron, Missouri.

A high incidence of tumors have surfaced over the past decade in the small town of Cameron, where approximately 70 people have developed brain tumors since 1996.

While state and federal health investigators have not reached a conclusion about the potential cause of the cluster, a lawsuit filed last month identified Prime Tanning Corp. as a possible source of contamination for the Cameron brain tumors.

The lawsuit was filed on April 22, 2009, against National Beef Leathers, which is the current owner of Prime Tanning.

According to the complaint, for more than two decades Prime provided various farmers in four counties of northwest Missouri with sludge that resulted from the process of removing hairs from hides. The sludge was distributed for use as a fertilizer, but allegedly contained hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.

A Motion for Temporary Restraining order was filed last week by the plaintiffs after they discovered that National Beef Leathers was planning to destroy 80 pallets of old documents they identified as no longer needed following the purchase of Prime Tanning.

On Wednesday, Clinton County Judge Brent Elliot, ordered that all past and present papers related to the sludge be preserved, and a hearing on the injunction is scheduled for July 14.

In addition to the pending Cameron brain tumor lawsuit, the papers may also be needed by government investigators who are attempting to confirm whether the sludge contained hexavalent chromium and whether it may explain the cluster of Cameron brain tumors.

A prior lawsuit filed involving the brain tumors alleged that the Rockwool Insulation facility near Cameron was responsible for the problems by releasing chemicals and contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency and Missouri Department of Natural Resources were scheduled to examine the soil at the Rockwool Insulation facility last week, but flooding rains in the area postponed the testing.

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