People In Endicott Sue IBM Faces Over Contamination

By Gabe Osterhout

July 22, 2010 Updated Jan 3, 2008 at 6:52 PM EDT

94 people file a lawsuit against IBM over chemical and vapor contamination in Endicott.

And hundreds more are expected to join the fight for their health and homes.

The scope of the problem began to surface 5 years ago.

It could take many more years for the first lawsuit to go to trial.

6 people involved in the lawsuit against IBM stood with attorney's at First United Methodist Church in Endicott.

The suit claims IBM allowed the chemical trichloroethylene, or TCE, to spill into the soil, groundwater and seep into air around Endicott.

"You have people that do have birth defects, people that have cancers. But you also have people whose property has been damaged, we believe by virtue of being subject to toxic vapors," says Phillip Johnson of Levine, Goulden and Thompson.

The lawsuit claims exposure to TCE is responsible for the illnesses.

It seeks damages for people who are sick now or those who could get sick in the future.

"They can have special testing that isn't normally done for people that are not exposed so we can find these cancers and get them treated, many of these cancers are treatable if they're detected early," says Stephen Shwarz of Faraci Lange.

IBM paid for ventilation systems to pull chemical vapors out of homes. But the lawsuit claims property values dropped, and people should be compensated.

Several of the plaintiffs live here on Tracy Street.

They weren't allowed to speak on camera but their attorneys say the plaintiffs are happy things are moving forward.

"This is something that's very important to them. They have been seriously damaged and they do need a remedy at this point to be compensated for what's happened here," says Johnson.

Five law firms are working together on the lawsuit to combine their expertise.

They can't say how long before the case will go to trial.

But attorney's say there will be other lawsuits filed in the coming months, covering the claims of at least 900 more people.

The lawsuit against IBM was filed Thursday morning in State Supreme Court in Binghamton.

There's no specific dollar amount requested.

The company issued this statement, saying quote "IBM will defend itself vigorously against these claims which have no merit in science."

While IBM is blamed in part for chemical contamination in Endicott, the DEC has identified or is looking into other sources.

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