Suburbs file lawsuit alleging coal tar products have contaminated stormwater ponds

January 02, 2019 06:19 PM

A number of suburbs in the Twin Cities metro area have filed identical lawsuits against a number of companies, alleging contamination caused by the defendants' coal tar products have contaminated their cities' stormwater ponds, leading to increased disposal costs when those ponds are dredged.

Lawsuits filed by Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Burnsville, Maple Grove, White Bear Lake and Minnetonka all name Koppers Inc., Ruetgers Canada Inc., Rain Carbon Holdings LLC, Rain Carbon Inc., the Stella Jones Corporation, the Coopers Creek Chemical Corporation and Lone Star Specialty Products, LLC as defendants.


"(The) Defendants are coal tar refiners who market refined coal tar for use in sealant coatings for, among other things, roads, driveways, and roofs, and at all times relevant to this action knew or should have known that their products contain high levels of PAHs that inevitably would be released into the environment," reads the lawsuit filed by the City of Bloomington.

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Court records show the Bloomington lawsuit alleges the defendants "take raw or crude coal tar - a toxic material left over from coal coking - and refine it into a variety of products, including one simply called refined coal tar or 'Refined Tar-12.' Defendants then market and sell refined coal tar specifically for use in pavement sealants. Unfortunately, refined coal tar contains high levels of chemicals called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons ("PAHs"). Materials dredged from the City's ponds that are contaminated with PAHs cannot be disposed of in the same manner as dredged materials that do not contain those PAHs."

The lawsuit charges the material is marketed as safe, even though the companies know their "refined coal tar products contain high levels of PAHs that inevitably will end up in the environment." And it goes on to allege that pavement sealants do not need to be made with refined coal tar, but rather can be asphalt-based.

The Bloomington lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, "injunctive and equitable relief to compel Defendants to abate the continuing nuisance by removing toxic chemicals, including PAHs, from the City's stormwater retention ponds and other stormwater-management devices," as well as the costs of the litigation, prejudgment interest, attorney's fees and other relief the court may decide on.

"(The cities) are seeking for the companies to pay the cost of remediation so the taxpayers don't get saddled with that burden," said Daniel Shulman, an attorney who filed lawsuits on behalf of several cities.

"We are hoping for a settlement or a fairly early trial and a substantial damage recovery that will provide an appropriate amount of compensation for what (the cities) are going to have to undertake financially."

Koppers, Inc. released the following statement: 

"Koppers does not believe there is merit to these claims and intends to vigorously defend these matters."

Rain Carbon Inc. declined a request for comments. The other defendants in the case did not respond to request for comments. 

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Leah McLean and Frank Rajkowski

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