North Pole water defendants suing each other

Posted: Sunday, June 06, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Two companies already being sued over contaminated water in North Pole are taking legal action against each other.

Flint Hills Resources has filed a cross claim against Williams Alaska Petroleum Inc., the former owner of an oil refinery from where the industrial chemical sulfolane leached into the water table and tainted 175 wells. Lawyers for Williams said in court this week they plan to file their own cross claim against Flint Hills, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Property owner James West sued both companies after sulfolane was found in his well. West is asking for more than $100,000 and his lawyer is seeking to broaden the case into a class-action lawsuit.

"If they want to point fingers at each other, that's fine," said Jason Weiner, West's attorney. "We take the position that they are both responsible."

The cross claims would be dealt with in conjunction with West's lawsuit unless a judge decides to separate the cases.

Gasoline spills before 2000 are believed to have soaked into refinery soil, allowing sulfolane to seep into groundwater. The chemical was detected last year.

Flint Hills bought the refinery in 2004 and has been providing bottled water to affected residents.

The North Pole city water system has a trace amount of the chemical in its wells, but officials said water at the tap is clean. Refinery owners said they're looking for locations to drill new wells that can feed the city's water system.

The health effects of sulfolane at levels found in the city 13 miles south of Fairbanks are unknown.



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