Class Action Lawsuit Filed for Residents Near Whirlpool Park in Ohio

A cluster of cancer cases near Clyde, Ohio has led to a $750 million class action lawsuit against Whirlpool Corp. and others involved with an industrial park that federal environmental experts say could contain cancer-causing agents. 

The environmental tort lawsuit was filed on March 28, in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, by several families who blame an area known as Whirlpool Park for a child cancer cluster in the area.

Three families are currently involved in the lawsuit, but it seeks class action status to include area residence. In addition to the appliance manufacturer, the lawsuit also names Grist Mill Greek LLC, which currently owns the site, as a defendant.

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Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested Whirlpool Park and found that it contained a number of chemicals suspected of being carcinogens (PDF), including polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), which was banned in 1979. A number of studies have linked the substance to non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a form of cancer that is often fatal. The levels found at the site exceed those that are considered safe for residential areas and also exceed the levels that trigger EPA clean up requirements.

Outwardly, Whirlpool Park was a recreational area for Whirlpool employees and their children for 55 years, until the company sold the park in 2008. The 27-acre park is about five miles southwest of Clyde and about six miles away from a Whirlpool manufacturing facility.

However, EPA testing uncovered a layer of toxic sludge on the site that has led many to suspect that the company used chemical waste to construct the park, which it then opened for use by family and children. The sludge layer is nine feet deep in some places, according to the EPA.

About 36 families who live or lived in a 12-mile radius around the park have had children diagnosed with cancer, some of whom have died.

Whirlpool officials say they are working with the EPA to address issues at the site and have submitted an assessment report and work plans for EPA approval. Further testing at the site is likely to occur after the plans have been approved.

Grist Mill officials, charged in the lawsuit with not cleaning up a toxic spill on their property, say Whirlpool told them the site was clean when they purchased it, and that last year’s testing was the only test that ever showed the site to be contaminated.

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