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Bethany Sues Aerospace Firms, Claiming Contamination Poses Public Water ‘Emergency’

The City of Bethany is suing a pair of aerospace companies after a “plume” of hazardous chemicals migrating from an airport manufacturing plant contaminated public water supplies and forced the city to shut down a pair of municipal water wells.

In the federal lawsuit, filed Aug. 31 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, the city claims Rockwell Automation and Gulfstream Aerospace owned and operated an aircraft manufacturing facility at Wiley Post Airport contaminated with toxic solvents and degreasers containing trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene, which have been detected in municipal wells at levels exceeding federal limits.

Bethany was forced to shut down two wells. Attorneys say the chemicals are “threatening to contaminate” the city’s supply of public drinking water, according to the complaint. Bethany says Milwaukee-based Rockwell and Savannah, Ga.-based Gulfstream knew about the contamination in 2008, but didn’t notify the city until 2012. The city is suing the companies to recover costs for treating, testing and monitoring its wells and finding a clean replacement water source for its customers.

The manufacturing plant was built in the 1950s and operated by Rockwell until the ‘80s, when it was taken over by Gulfstream. The plant closed its doors in 2002. While testing by Bethany and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has shown pollution exceeding limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “in some areas, both Gulfstream and Rockwell deny this,” The Oklahoman’s Brianna Bailey reports:

“To date, the consistent testing of the City of Bethany’s water supply has not shown evidence of any contaminants associated with the operations at the former manufacturing facility,” the companies said in a statement. “The ODEQ’s periodic testing of Bethany’s groundwater has consistently demonstrated that the groundwater complies with all federal clean water standards.”

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Joe was a founding reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma (2011-2019) covering the intersection of economic policy, energy and environment, and the residents of the state.
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