Bill Mullins, the second-generation owner of Mullins Rubber Products in the Riverside suburb of Dayton, is no stranger to the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2004, Mullins and his company paid a total of $500,000 in fines for violating the Clean Air Act; the fines were assessed after Mullins pled guilty to misreporting air pollution from a volatile organic compound called TCE.
WHIO reported that early this year the US EPA, at the behest of the Ohio EPA, concluded a three-year investigation into groundwater and soil contamination with the carcinogenic compounds known as PCE and TCE. After sampling more than 470 residential properties and a concerted investigative effort, the EPA announced that Mullins Rubber Products & Mullins Land Co. were the definitive source of the contamination that directly caused high levels of indoor air pollution in nearby Valley Pike.
How environmental contamination threatens homes and families
The indoor air pollution was the result of the toxic compounds rising out of the soil. This natural evaporation created a condition called “vapor intrusion” in more than 90 homes in the Valley Pike neighborhood of Riverside. The vapor intrusion led to dangerous levels of the now airborne compounds in the affected homes, and required the installation of vapor abatement systems to purify the indoor air. Continuous monitoring will be required to ensure the safety of residents for years to come.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, the chemicals PCE and TCE (tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, respectively) are known to be extremely dangerous to humans. Worse, the chemicals are extraordinarily difficult to remove from water supplies, and stick around for years. PCE degrades into TCE, meaning that even natural decomposition doesn’t reduce toxicity. Acute exposure at moderate levels in air or water causes skin and mucous irritation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. At high levels, the nervous system is affected, and confusion and loss of coordination precede unconsciousness, heart arrhythmia and pulmonary edema.
Nor is that all; a 2014 study published in the journal Environmental Health examined the effects of PCE contaminated drinking water on pregnant women. The results showed that prenatal exposure to PCE increased the risk of stillbirth by 2.38 times, and increased the risk of a placental abruption by 1.35 times. A placental abruption occurs when the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall, and interrupts the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. Placental abruptions drastically increase the chance of birth injury due to hypoxia.
Missing details are worthy of note
Interestingly, the EPA investigation makes no note of the fact that Mullins’ company was awarded a $53,000 Economic Development/Government Equity grant in 2012 from Montgomery County. The grant was a bailout; according to the Dayton Daily News, the grant was necessary to purchase a chiller, a vital part of the manufacturing process, because “Mullins said the company had been using a well the last 60 years, but the water became contaminated [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][emphasis added] and had to be shut down.”
This article was published just one year prior to the Ohio EPA’s discovery of the Valley Pike contamination. The issue may have been discovered sooner, but the agency only conducts VOC testing in groundwater and wells every 18 months because of the vast number of sites around the state. Whether Mullins’ failed to report the cooling well contamination in 2012, and whether that incident was the proximal cause of the vapor intrusion remains to be seen.
While the contamination was possibly accidental (Mullins said in December 2013 he was 100 percent confident that his company was not the source), the repercussions are very real. The Ohio EPA and the US EPA are evaluating the area for proposal to the National Priorities List (aka, Superfund), and Mullins & Co. have agreed to an Administrative Order on Consent that defines the companies’ responsibilities regarding sampling and cleanup.
Valley Pike could contaminate Dayton’s public water system
While efforts are ongoing, there is no telling how big and bad the problem is for now. The Dayton Daily News reported, “The plume is far from the city of Dayton’s wellfields, and the goal is to intercept it, said Renninger, who is part of the EPA’s Superfund Division. The fields are northwest and southeast of the plume.” Good plan – but if it doesn’t work, the public drinking water supply could be tainted with carcinogenic compounds for years to come.
If your home has been affected, the EPA will install a vapor abatement system at no charge to you. If you or a loved one has experienced any of the symptoms of PCE or TCE exposure, or your pregnancy suffered complications, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced Ohio birth injury lawyers at Crandall & Pera Law can evaluate your case and get you the compensation you deserve. When companies make mistakes that affect you and your family, our team fights to protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation. We maintain offices in Ohio and Kentucky for your convenience.