The City of Pattonsburg, Missouri, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against more than a dozen petroleum companies alleging that methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive, contaminated its water supply. City of Pattonsburg v. Ashland Inc., No. N/A (W.D. Mo. 10/4/10). The complaint alleges that defendants knew about MTBE’s dangers but still chose to promote its use to Congress, EPA and the public. It also alleges that defendants formed various formal and informal task forces and committees for the purpose of concealing MTBE’s actual threat.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages for claims of strict liability for design defect and failure to warn, negligence, public and private nuisance, trespass, and civil conspiracy, and compensatory damages for testing and monitoring, providing water from alternative sources, installing wellhead treatments, building an early warning system to detect MTBE plumes, and the loss of consumer confidence and business. The lawsuit is one of more than 70 similar lawsuits filed since 1998.