First Environment was retained by the law firm of Dentons US, LLP on behalf Schaeffler Group USA, Inc.; FAG Holding, LLC; and FAG Bearings, LLC to provide an expert report containing opinions with regard to the standard of care for the use, handling, and disposal of trichloroethylene (TCE) at the FAG Bearings manufacturing facility, located in Joplin, Missouri (the Facility), as it related to the matter of Jodelle L. Kirk v. Schaeffler Group USA, Inc., FAG Holdings, LLC, and FAG Bearings, LLC.
The matter involves a toxic tort lawsuit brought by the plaintiff over the alleged impacts of TCE contaminated groundwater, surface water, soil, soil gas, and indoor air contamination in and around the former FAG Bearings facility on plaintiff’s health prognosis of autoimmune hepatitis.
First Environment provided affirmative and rebuttal expert opinions on the timing and impacts of wastewater discharges from TCE degreasing operations on the groundwater, which was the alleged source of the plaintiff’s injuries. In addition, the historical operations of the plant, including the nature and extent of its degreasing operations, its use of surface water lagoons as wastewater treatment and disposal facilities, and the discharge of wastewater to the city-owned industrial sewers was also detailed and discussed.
First Environment researched the plant’s history to determine whether or not “large quantities” of toxic chemicals, including TCE, were released to the environment. First Environment also rebutted the plaintiff’s conclusion about the nature and timing of the documentation of the known persistence and negative health effects of chlorinated solvents in the scientific literature dating back to the1940s.
First Environment conducted additional research into the sources and quantities of TCE that were used and allegedly disposed of at the FAG facility and provided additional operational details of the processes that were employed at the facility to degrease industrial ball bearings from 1970 to 1982.
First Environment developed models and calculations to demonstrate the volume of TCE that would have been contained in wastewater leaving the facility. First Environment obtained and reviewed data concerning the total TCE purchased during the period of 1977 to 1982. Using this amount, First Environment calculated the mass balance of TCE use by quantifying the TCE losses in the degreasing operations. Although the degreaser system was a closed-loop system, losses occurred through vaporization where TCE was lost to the atmosphere through the activated carbon adsorption process, piping connections/joints, and distilling operations associated with the recycling of the TCE. Other losses included the loss of dissolved TCE in the steam condensate during carbon reactivation process and residual TCE being lost in oily still bottoms and pure TCE lost in incidental consumptive uses.
First Environment also demonstrated that the handling of TCE as both a raw material and a component of the plant’s wastewater was consistent with the practices in place during the plant’s operation by FAG Bearings.