Plaintiffs in a high-profile, class-action lawsuit against Bullseye Glass Co., a Southeast Portland art glass manufacturer, have asked a Multnomah County Court to approve a settlement in the case that would pay them about $2 million in cash and pay another $1 million for a two-year neighborhood air monitoring program, their lawyers announced last week.
The parties settled the case in January for $6.5 million, but disbursement details weren't made public until May 3. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in February 2016 after a U.S. Forest Service study found elevated levels of toxic contaminants in tree moss near the Bullseye plant. They argued that Bullseye was the source of the contamination.
The 809 people who filed valid claims in the case would receive payments of several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on whether they owned or rented property in the affected area and the size of their household, according to the Seattle law firm Keller Rohrback, which litigated the case. To be valid, claims had to be filed by May 2.
In addition, the law firm also asked Judge Stephen K. Bushong to approve reimbursements of up to $1.94 million to cover the plaintiffs' past and future expenses in testing soils on their properties and, if necessary, pay for a cleanup if test results show elevated levels of chromium, cadmium or arsenic.
The settlement also requires Bullseye to use and maintain approved air pollution filters. Attorney fees and costs amounted to $2.5 million.
Bullseye Vice President Jim Jones said the company made "substantial investments" in pollution controls on its furnaces more than two years ago. "These advanced environmental devices ensure that Bullseye far exceeds the new Cleaner Air Oregon regulations," he said.
Cleaner Air Oregon is a program enacted last year by the Department of Environmental Quality that will attempt to reduce toxic air pollution in the state to levels it deems healthy.
Jones said that at Bullseye's suggestion, the settlement also calls for monitoring of diesel particulates near the plant.
"We are pleased that the settlement agreement ends a challenging chapter in our small company's decades of compliance with Oregon's environmental values and regulations," Jones said. "Oregonians are never well served by government scare tactics, discriminatory standards or inflammatory statements that help create a cottage industry of environmental lawsuits. We look forward to a future when regulations are based on real science and clear standards, and responsible companies are acknowledged and credited for doing the right thing."
"It's unconscionable that Bullseye put Southeast Portlanders at unnecessary risk for decades by using unprotected, unfiltered furnaces," said Daniel Mensher, a partner at Keller Rohrback. "This settlement is a great outcome for the class and the public at large after years of hard-fought litigation."
The court received only a few objections to the proposed settlement. One person objected because it did not compensate people for health damages. The court rejected that claim because the lawsuit was not a personal injury case.
Keller Rohrback also represents plaintiffs in a similar air pollution lawsuit against Precision Castparts, another industrial polluter located in Southeast Portland. The Precision Castparts case is pending in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
Portland freelance writer Paul Koberstein is editor of Cascadia Times.
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