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Toxic chemicals suit dumped on IBM

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A group from IBM's home turf of Endicott, New York is suing the company over alleged decades of dumping toxic and hazardous contaminants into the environment.

The lawsuit was filed today in Broome County, New York by seven law firms representing over 90 former and current residents of Endicott and the neighboring Town of Union.

In a 43-page filing, the plaintiffs claim IBM's former manufacturing plant released "millions of gallons of various industrial chemicals, including Trichloroethylene ('TCE') Tetrachloroethylene ('PCE'), Trichloroethane ('TCA'), Benzene and Trichlorotrifluoroethane ('Freon 113')."

Between 1924 and 2002, the company "with conscious indifference and disregard to the health and safety of the residents" allowed the industrial chemicals to enter the groundwater. The lawsuit claims the toxins vaporized into the homes and businesses of Endicott and Union causing kidney cancer in adults and congenital heart defects in infants.

The plant produced circuit boards, integrated circuits and other computer components before IBM sold the property in 2002.

A recent report from the state Department of Heath documented higher rates of those health problems in areas affected by the pollution, although a cause for the ailments was not found.

The lawsuit claims IBM is a "sophisticated scientific business entity" that knew or should have known the volatile organic chemicals were toxic to humans and would contaminate the surround area. It says the toxins migrated as vapors into the homes and businesses located above the contaminated groundwater plume.

"As we explained to plaintiffs' lawyers before they filed this case, these suits have no basis in science or law, and IBM will defend itself vigorously," the company said in a statement.

IBM said it has already addressed the health concerns of residents. It has built hundreds of extraction and investigation wells since 1979 to monitor groundwater under the guidance of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The company also made improvements to the existing wastewater treatment center as well as installing ventilation systems in more than 440 properties in the area. IBM said it gave two unconditional grants totaling $2.1m to Endicott and offered an additional $2.2m to eligible homeowners under a program negotiated by the state attorney general's office.

IBM began negotiating with the group of law firms in 2004, which rejected a $3m settlement offer in November. ®

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