The central California city of Clovis has won a $22 million civil case against Shell Oil over the cleanup of a toxic chemical found in drinking-water wells, officials said.
The Fresno Bee reported that the chemical 1,2,3-trichloropropane, or TCP, is a waste product from making plastic.
A jury found that Clovis residents were harmed the fumigant. The jury also found Shell did not prove the benefits of its product outweighed the risks, and that those risks were known when it was sold.
“It’s not the city’s fault that TCP is in its wells, and it is the city’s responsibility to protect its citizens,” said Duane Miller, an attorney representing Clovis.
Shell attorney Cal Burnton told jurors that residents have not been harmed by the TCP in their water. He said that TCP has never been declared a human carcinogen, though scientific studies show it caused cancer in laboratory animals including rats.
Renfroe also claimed there was sufficient warning.
The labels warned of kidney and liver damage but not cancer because the animal studies weren’t done until 1985, she said. Labels also didn’t warn about groundwater risks because she said no one recognized that was possible until 1983.
“Shell could not warn of what it did not know,” she said.
TCP is prevalent in Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties. But is also found elsewhere in the state, including Los Angeles County.
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