WEST COVINA — A lawsuit on behalf of 13 families who were evacuated from their homes near the BKK Corp. landfill here has been filed against BKK and three corporations that allegedly dumped hazardous waste at the site.
It is the eighth suit to be filed against the controversial landfill by surrounding homeowners, but it is the first to name companies that allegedly dumped hazardous waste at BKK as co-defendants.
The suit, which was filed in Pomona Superior Court and seeks an unspecified amount in damages, alleges nuisance, negligence, trespass and strict liability on the part of BKK Corp., Chevron USA, Union Oil Ltd., Allied Chemical and Pacific Soils, an engineering firm that offered soil analyses and other technical services to BKK.
Kenneth Kazarian, vice president of BKK, said he could not comment on the latest suit because he had not yet seen the complaint. Representatives of Chevron USA and Union Oil also said they had no immediate comment. Attempts to reach Allied Chemical and Pacific Soils were unsuccessful.
"This litigation has reached such proportions that it needed the inclusion of responsible defendants," said Marian Graham, an attorney with the law offices of Herbert Hafif, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families.
"Mr. Hafif felt that toxic dumpers are more knowledgeable and more at fault than the dump site," Graham said. "They're in a better position to predict the aftereffects of their own product."
Realtor Named in Suit
Hafif's office also represents more than 250 homeowners in five other suits against BKK, the developer of the homes, W & A Builders, and its real estate brokers, for negligence and misrepresentation of the residential area near the dump.
The 13 families represented in the latest suit were evacuated from their homes next to the former toxic waste dump in July, 1984, after dangerous levels of methane gas and vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen, invaded their quiet neighborhood. The families were allowed to return to their homes when testing done by state and federal regulatory agencies deemed the houses acceptable for reoccupation. For many of the families, however, that determination took six months.
The suit seeks compensation for the physical and emotional duress suffered by the families during their evacuation and for temporary loss of their property.
In all, 21 families were evacuated in July. Besides the 13 who recently filed suit, two other families also have brought separate lawsuits against BKK through another attorney, seeking a total of $22 million in damages, BKK attorney Charles Vogel said.
Wastes From Oil Fields
According to Kazarian, Union Oil and Chevron USA dumped "oily wastes" which contained drilling mud and other wastes associated with oil refining.
"I have no idea what chemicals came from Allied," he said. "Basically, we've just taken in all the categories of chemicals that are produced in the area."
Attorney Graham also said that the oil and chemical companies, as well as the firm that provided engineering services to BKK, were included in the suit because "BKK's insurance company is in dispute. It's still in question whether they will have to pay."
Kazarian agreed that the limits of his firm's insurance may not cover all the monetary damages sought in the suits. "Most of the time these people are suing far in excess of the insurance coverage," he said. Kazarian also said that his firm had several insurance carriers, and "I'm not really sure right now what our limits are.
Kazarian said BKK spent $620,000 on hotel rooms, food and clothing for the evacuees.