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Stringfellow OKs Settlement of Toxic Waste Suit


James B. Stringfellow Jr., whose Riverside County rock quarry became one of the nation's leading symbols of toxic waste dumping woes, has tentatively agreed to an $8-million settlement with residents of the nearby community of Glen Avon.

The agreement, subject to approval in court and by 3,800 Glen Avon residents, is the latest in a long-running liability lawsuit over the Stringfellow Acid Pits, scheduled for trial in early November.

Three months ago, Alumax Inc., a Georgia-based aluminum manufacturer responsible for dumping chromium and other toxics into the landfill, tentatively agreed to pay $18 million to the residents' group. Still named in the lawsuit are sixteen other defendants, including the state, Riverside County and 12 firms that dumped solvents, acids, pesticides and metals into unlined ponds on the 20-acre site.

"We're very happy given the circumstances of his limited resources," Melvyn I. Weiss, a New York attorney who represents the residents, said Tuesday. "I don't know what the impact is on anybody else in the case, but it's a result we're very happy with."

Weiss and others close to the case said they presume insurance carriers would pay the bulk of the latest settlement. Stringfellow, 65, who has moved from the Riverside area, could not be reached for comment.

Stringfellow opened the facility in 1956 after being approached by state officials seeking a remote but convenient hazardous waste disposal site for Southern California's quickly developing manufacturing industry.

By the time the site was closed in 1972, nearly 35 million gallons of cancer-causing wastes had been dumped in the pits, located west of Riverside. Glen Avon residents sued in 1984 after a toxic release was found seeping underground toward the community, contaminating water wells and jeopardizing property values.

Among those firms named in the suit are General Electric Co., McDonnell Douglas Corp., Montrose Chemical Corp. and Northrop Corp.

Environmental activist Penny Newman, a plaintiff in the case, said Tuesday she views Stringfellow as "kind of one of the victims--but not an unwilling victim" of government and industry hazardous waste experts.

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