For this project, First Environment reviewed and analyzed complex technical specifications, regulatory requirements and historic soil and groundwater contamination data to determine the standard of care for operating a solid rocket fuel propellant manufacturing facility from the 1950s through the early 1990s. First Environment provided expert witnessing and litigation support to assist our clients with cost recovery, contribution, and declaratory judgement actions under Sections 107(a), 112, 113(f) and 113(g)(2) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) as to costs incurred by Whittaker Corporation and AIG’s predecessor, Chartis Insurance, as subrogee, consistent with the National Contingency Plan in response to the release or threatened release of hazardous substances to the environment including, but not limited to, the primary contaminants of concern ammonium perchlorate (AP) and trichloroethylene (TCE) on or near the Whittaker site.
The facility manufactured solid rocket propellants for use in a variety of weaponry including the cruise missile. The site consisted of lower, middle, and upper facilities, each of which are separated by location, relative differences in topography (elevation), and land use. Site operations primarily occurred at the lower and middle facilities before 1989 when the upper facility was constructed. The site was used to primarily produce starter cartridges and gas generators, particularly during Whittaker Ordnance ownership, but also produced other small explosive devices including explosive bolts, fuses, and detonators. Site activities included manufacturing propellants, QA/QC testing of explosive devices, and waste disposal operations.
First Environment’s expert work entailed organization and review of thousands of operational, regulatory, and technical documents related to AP rocket propellant formulation, manufacture and disposal at site. Key to our analysis was the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) safety requirements that necessitated burning of AP and AP-containing propellant in burn pit/pads on site that resulted in release of AP to soil and groundwater in the area, while the operators independently made good faith and deliberate efforts to comply with existing environmental regulations. To facilitate the review of documents, First Environment employed special litigation support software and improved efficiencies by accessing its own historic database to retrieve documents that addressed the standard of care for the facility, especially for the disposal of AP-containing wastes in a burn pit. We used various litigation support tools to code and categorize thousands of technical documents, including Concordance and Microsoft Access. These databases were used by counsel and experts to formulate the client’s litigation strategy.