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Products liability case ready to start after nearly a decade

Groundwater contamination is a serious environmental threat that can have long-term consequences. The issues surrounding this problem require immediate attention when methyl tertiary butyl ether is found in areas that supply drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified this substance as a possible human carcinogen. Companies that have operations that release MTBE can be held accountable for their actions in product liability cases.

Oil giants ExxonMobil and Citgo are now involved in legal wrangling concerning widespread groundwater contamination involving MTBE. The trial is expected to take about four months. Twelve jurors and four alternates were selected after a rigorous selection process. Two hundred and thirty witnesses are listed and 100 lawyers are recorded on the case.

The incident occurred near Massachusetts, and despite the nearly decade-long delay to the start of the case, New Hampshire is the first state to reach trial in a MTBE lawsuit. More than $700 million is being sought in damages to test and monitor every private well and public drinking water system. The damages will also cover cleanup costs, if needed. Concerns regarding the presence of preexisting contaminants and their effects on were expressed by attorneys for the oil companies. Sixty percent of the population in New Hampshire gets their drinking water from private wells.

The release of MTBE into groundwater can be caused by accidents or negligence. Residents in Massachusetts that are affected must defend their rights to have cleanup and health-related costs covered. This compensation may not undo the damages, but it can provide the necessary financial support to move forward after a harrowing incident with MTBE contamination.

Source: Boston.com, "Long-awaited NH pollution trial ready to start," Lynne Tuohy, Dec. 29, 2012

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