How We Got $100 Million to Clean Up Groundwater Contamination

We succeeded in convincing a court to hold several companies liable for decades of perchlorate contamination, before the Environmental Protection Agency had even established perchlorate standards.

After new technology detected perchlorate, a chemical linked to thyroid disorder, four water agencies and companies came to us to hasten slow-moving clean-up efforts which the Department of Toxic Substances Control had initiated. We sued the responsible parties, which included munitions manufacturers and development companies. They countersued, blaming the Castaic Water Lake Agency and co-plaintiffs for spreading their contamination by pumping groundwater.

The court ruled in our clients' favor on summary judgment, establishing the responsible parties' liability, which brought them to the negotiating table to talk money. With the strategic support of local politicians and the approval of several regulatory agencies, we settled on $100 million to cover the construction of water treatment plants and 30 years of operations and maintenance – one of the largest water contamination settlements in California history.

When one of the defendant companies went bankrupt, we aggressively and successfully asserted our rights as a creditor in bankruptcy court. We then not only worked with the responsible parties' insurers to pay the settlement, but made lemonade out of lemons by determining that the countersuit triggered our clients' liability insurance and recovered more than $6 million in attorneys' fees. Pretty sweet.

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