Maryland Group Asks Supreme Court to Hear Superfund Site Case

March 21, 2018, 3:47 PM

The Supreme Court has the opportunity to decide whether the U.S. government’s past waste disposal practices make the military liable for causing human health problems.

A public health advocacy group asked the court March 20 to consider a case involving the Army’s decision to dispose of hazardous waste decades ago on its property, Fort Detrick, outside Frederick, Md. The property has since been named a federal Superfund site.

The plaintiffs include the advocacy group the Kristen Renee Foundation and people who live or had lived near Fort Detrick. They claim the Army’s disposal practices caused sickness and death.

Contaminants at the site include trichloroethylene, which the Environmental Protection Agency says is carcinogenic to humans, and tetrachloroethylene, which EPA says is likely to be carcinogenic.

Generally, the federal government has sovereign immunity, which protects it from most lawsuits. The plaintiffs are bringing the case based on the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows citizens limited ability to sue the government for negligence.

The case is Pieper v. U.S., U.S., No. 17-1324, 3/20/18.

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