Merck’s Merced Facility: “Erin Brockovich” Style Chromium 6 Lawsuit Redux?


Last week, as Ed Silverman’s Pharmalot.com noted, a very able federal district court judge in central California, Judge Oliver W. Wanger, began hearing evidence about, among other matters, whether (as the plaintiffs allege) potentially damaging language about a clean-up plan written by a Merck consultant at Merced in the 1990s was ommitted from a final draft sent to local environmental authorities — after some 22 years of Hexacarbonyl Chromium pollution had indisputably leached into the local water table.

Hexacarbonyl Chromium — also known as Chromium 6 (3D molecular bond structure at right, click to enlarge) — is a well-known carcinogen.

Here is a bit of the local Merced paper’s March 2010 run-down (graphic at right derived from an original map posted courtesy the Merced Sun-Star.com), as updated by yours truly — do go read it all:

. . . .In a case with undertones of “Erin Bro[c]kovich,” some of the more than 2,000 people from the Beachwood neighborhood, who have been battling sickness and ill health, will soon witness the first phase of a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.

The lawsuit alleges that a subsidiary of Merck polluted groundwater and soil in the area for years and caused sickness and death in the area.

Merck strongly denies the allegations.

A federal court [has begun hearing evidence]. . . in the first phase of the lawsuit against the $100 billion-plus company, as well as a group of other defendants. The first part of the lawsuit is meant to determine how much pollution was dumped on the site and how much were residents exposed to that pollution.

For the past four years, lawyers representing Beachwood residents have been preparing for a trial in federal court in Fresno against Merck. Specifically, the case involves allegations that the Baltimore Aircoil Co. (BAC), a subsidiary of Merck & Co., polluted the Beachwood area’s soil and groundwater with Chromium 6, a carcinogen.

From 1969 to about 1991 a wood treatment process at the site leached the toxin into the soil, the suit alleges, and the company failed to notify residents of the danger. That pollution allegedly caused illness and death in the neighborhood. . . .

The jury was picked by Thursday afternoon; and opening arguments were completed on Friday. Testimony has begun in Case No. 07-388 (E. Dist., CA). We will of course keep you posted, and will report any verdict entered.

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