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Kraft Settles for $8m In Pollution Class Action

Kraft Foods will pay $8.1 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that one of its factories polluted the air and water of 124 families’ homes in Attica, Ind.

The families alleged that Kraft spilled vinyl chloride (VC), trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) on plant property starting in 1957, contaminating groundwater and allowing carcinogenic vapors to migrate into their homes. Testing revealed the chemicals’ presence in homes, the plaintiffs said.

Under the terms of the settlement, Kraft is required to clean up its factory site and nearby groundwater, and install mitigation systems in affected homes. The agreement reserves plaintiffs the right to bring separate personal injury actions against Kraft if they get sick as a result of the pollution, the families’ lawyers said.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen. TCE is a designated hazardous air pollutant found at more than 1,500 hazardous waste sites. It is a chlorinated solvent that has been widely used as a metal degreaser, as a chemical intermediate and extractant, and as a component of some consumer products.

PCE is a chemical solvent widely used for dry cleaning, metal degreasing, and in making some consumer products and other chemicals. It is found in the soil of about half of the Superfund National Priority List hazardous waste sites, the EPA says.

Both TCE and PCE are among a number of chemicals for which the EPA is currently establishing drinking water standards.

“It’s extremely difficult for an individual to go toe-to-toe with a big company, like Kraft,” Norm Berger, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said. “And, let’s face it, when there’s pollution it’s very unlikely that just one or even a small number of local families are impacted. That’s why class actions are effective in contamination cases.

“We’re pleased that the residents of Attica had their day in court, and that the end result here, besides monetary compensation, is clean-up of the area and improved quality of life for these families,” Berger added.

Kraft did not respond to a call for comment.

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