Aerial view of McCook Field neighborhood where residents won class action status against industrial site for pollution lawsuit

McCook Field residents’ lawsuit over contamination of their Dayton neighborhood moves forward

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a federal judge’s decision to grant class-action status to a lawsuit filed by McCook Field residents against Behr America Inc., Behr Thermal Dayton, Chrysler and Aramark Uniforms.

This means the residents’ suit against the companies alleging groundwater and environmental contamination can go forward, said the residents’ attorney, Douglas Brannon.

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“This has been a long time coming for these residents,” Brannon said Wednesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers this area a “Superfund” site on a national priority list. 

A decade ago, 30 plaintiffs launched the lawsuit, which now covers 540 homes and properties in the McCook Field neighborhood. They charge that Aramark and Chrysler contaminated the ground with carcinogenic volatile organic compounds, also known as “VOCs.”

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Remediation efforts to deal with the VOCs have been inadequate, Brannon said.

“It is intruding up to these homes in a process called ‘vapor intrusion,’” he said.

The Chrysler auto parts plant at 1600 Webster St. has operated since the 1930s. German manufacturer Behr GmbH & Co. bought the plant in 2002. German firm Mahle GmbH then took a majority ownership stake in the Behr Group in 2013.

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In 2016, then Behr plant-manager Rob Baker told the Dayton Daily News that the plant would have more than 1,500 workers in 18 months. 

U.S. District Judge Walter Rice granted the lawsuit class-action status in early 2017. That status was the point of contention in arguments before the Circuit Court in March this year, and this ruling was released last week.

Brannon said he now expects Rice to begin to schedule certain hearings, with a trial ahead on the question of liability.

A message seeking comment was sent to attorneys representing Chrysler, Behr and Aramark.

Jerry Bowling III is not directly involved in the suit as a plaintiff, but is a McCook Field resident who has been deposed by defendants’ attorneys. 

“I think it is good news, especially for those who are affected by it,” Bowling said of the ruling Wednesday.

He said the problem affects homes and small businesses in the area. The problem affects property values and hinders development, he said. 

“We actually want a total cleanup of the affected areas,” Bowling said. 

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