Shell Oil Company was ordered this week to pay $63 million in damages for polluting groundwater in the city of Atwater, California.
A jury this week found the corporation liable in the four-month trial over a lawsuit filed against the company for their role in releasing the highly toxic chemical 1,2,3-Trichloropropane (TCP) into the groundwater.
Shell was accused of marketing a nematicide, a chemical used by farmers to kill worms in the soil, to the public without revealing that it contained TCP. The nematicide was widely used by farmers in Atwater on agricultural lands, leading to contaminated groundwater.
The jury awarded the city of Atwater $53 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages, all of which will go towards cleaning the city’s drinking water and ongoing maintenance.
TCP, a waste product from making plastic, is on the list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. Exposure to high concentrations of the chemical may irritate or burn the skin, nose, eyes, or throat, cause drowsiness or liver damage.
“The city simply cannot afford the costs of removing TCP from the city’s water, and the ratepayers should not have to bear the cost burden of the cleanup due to the actions of Shell Oil Company,” said Atwater mayor Paul Creighton.
“Up and down the San Joaquin Valley, clean drinking water is an issue far too many cities must deal with. Thankfully for this verdict, we can ensure that our residents have a safe, reliable source of drinking water, and not have to face the same issues that far too many of our fellow valley residents have to face.”