A water contamination lawsuit against eastern Montana’s Colstrip power plant has been settled. The plant’s five corporate owners have agreed to pay $25 million to settle the case. The 57 plaintiffs – including some plant workers – alleged plant officials knew the plant was contaminating water supplies beneath at least one Colstrip subdivision for four years before notifying the community. It was alleged that a second subdivision and trailer park also suffered contamination. No sicknesses resulted, but many homeowners and the Colstrip Moose Lodge lost use of their underground wells. It was difficult for the companies to dispute that a problem existed since the wells were tested and came up contaminated.
The lawsuit, filed in 2003, had been scheduled to go to trial this month. The defendants were PPL Montana, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric, Avista Corp., and PacifiCorp. The contamination originated in the smokestacks of the plant and was removed to meet clean air requirements. At least two of the holding ponds where the toxins were dumped leaked.
The 2,100 watt plant is operated by PPL Montana to generate electricity for west coast markets. PPL acquired the plant in 1999, two years after the public disclosure of the contamination, as part of its acquisition of the Montana Power Company. While a PPL spokesman acknowledged the plant had contaminated a near-surface aquifer that would not affect the deeper residential wells, plaintiffs claimed many local wells had been contaminated. Additionally, they claimed the companies were responsible for leakage in sufficient quantities to raise the water level under the town causing structural damage to some homes.
Source: Associated Press
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