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Cancer Diagnosis Prompts Lawsuit

Todd PittengerDecember 13, 2021

A Saline County man who believes contaminated drinking water is the source of a cancer diagnosis has filed a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by William Grit of New Cambria, contends that as a direct and proximate result of exposure to, and ingestion of carcinogens in his well water from 2014 through 2019, he developed cancer on his skin and in his colon, rectum and abdomen.

At issue is contamination from a grain elevator and fertilizer supply site in New Cambria.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Shawnee County District Court, Koch Agriculture Company purchased a grain elevator and fertilizer supply site in New Cambria in 1991, and operated the site from 1991 to 1993. It sold grain storage services, fertilizer products, and crop protection chemicals including pesticides. The New Cambria grain elevator and fertilizer site had been in operation since the 1920s prior to purchase by Koch Agriculture Company.

Koch Agriculture Company performed, or had performed, an environmental site assessment at the grain elevator and fertilizer site which revealed hazardous chemicals in the soil and groundwater.

In or about 1998, Koch Agriculture Company entered a voluntary agreement with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to characterize and remediate hazardous substances at the New Cambria grain elevator and fertilizer site that had migrated into the soil and groundwater at the site and surrounding properties. The voluntary agreement required Koch Agriculture Company to sample nearby drinking water wells on an annual basis and report their findings. As part of the sampling, characterization and remediation work, groundwater wells were installed at the New Cambria grain and fertilizer site and in residential areas throughout New Cambria.

As part of their sampling, characterization and remediation work, they sampled groundwater for hazardous contaminants at the monitoring wells and in private wells in New Cambria. When they found hazardous contaminants in or near New Cambria residential drinking wells, they paid to switch residents to public water supply that did not come from local groundwater. They paid to switch some New Cambria residents to public water supply as early as 2000 due to nitrate levels found in New Cambria water wells.

Grit purchased his home in New Cambria in October of 2014, and has lived in that property through the present time. The property was served by a private residential drinking well from October of 2014 through September 2020. On a daily basis, Grit drank water from the well and showered in the well water from October of 2014 through September 2020.

The lawsuit contends Grit’s well was not among residential drinking wells and wells at a trailer park in New Cambria which were identified and sampled, nor were any report any sampling results reported to him regarding the drinking water well on his property or well water
results on nearby properties.

In September of 2019 more private wells were identified and sampled for nitrates that had migrated from the New Cambria grain and fertilizer site. Grit was notified in October 2019 that 7.2 mg/L of nitrates were found in his water well sampling, and that the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level for nitrate is 10.0 mg/L.

In September of 2020 more sampling was done. Grit was notified that 22.7 mg/L of nitrates were found in his water well sampling, and that this level is above the EPA maximum contaminant level for 7 nitrate of 10.0mg/L and it was recommended connecting the Grit residence to the public water supply.

The lawsuit contends the defendants knew, or should have known, that harmful contaminants other than nitrates, including but not limited to carcinogens such as lead, arsenic and chromium, had migrated from the New Cambria grain and fertilizer site to nearby New Cambria residential drinking wells.

In May of 2016 Grit developed a melanoma on his left shoulder that required excision and removal. In March of 2019, he was diagnosed with the metastatic melanoma in his colon, rectum and abdomen.

Grit is requesting a jury trial in the case.

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Copyright © Meridian Media, 2022. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Meridian Media’s express consent.

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