Ashcraft v. Conoco
Facing Off With Big Oil Over MTBE Contamination
The 178 people who lived in the trailer park north of Wilmington, N.C., didn’t have much.
But when their drinking water was fouled by a scary new chemical apparently left behind by an old gas station, they wouldn’t stand for it. Theirs was the first lawsuit over the contamination of drinking water by the gasoline additive MTBE.
What Is Wrong with MTBE?
Even in small amounts, MTBE can cause water to taste and smell like turpentine. And it moves quickly through soil and water, but is almost impossible to remove. It was added to gas to keep engines running more slowly after lead was phased out. It also burned cleaner, reducing air pollution. But it wasn’t good for water supplies.
The trailer park residents weren’t worried just about the taste of their drinking water. They were worried about possible future health problems and little was known about that. Our team at Aldous \ Walker represented them.
Tough Advocacy from Our Dallas Trial Attorneys
The trial in North Carolina lasted five weeks, and jurors found Conoco liable for damages. But before the jury could announce its award for damages, Conoco agreed to a settlement, money for potential health care, medical monitoring, and the loss of value to their property.
It was only the beginning. For years after that suit filed in the 1990s, oil companies have paid and cities have worked to clean up MTBE contamination. Today the chemical is banned in many states.