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Disney dumped illegally, suit says

Plaintiffs accuse the studio of dumping contaminants from cooling systems, affecting its neighbor.

June 11, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BURBANK — The Walt Disney Co. for decades has contaminated groundwater with toxic chemicals, including cancer-causing chromium 6, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The lawsuit, brought by the watchdog group Environmental World Watch Inc. and Burbank homeowner Dennis Jackson, alleges that Disney had been dumping wastewater contaminated with hexavalent chromium from its on-site cooling systems since 1988.

On Tuesday, the same Sacramento-based law firm representing Jackson and Environmental World Watch, Kershaw Cutter & Ratinoff LLP, filed another lawsuit in Superior Court expanding the number of plaintiffs against Disney for similar allegations by 16 people. The lead plaintiff listed in the lawsuit is also a Burbank resident.

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According to the June 3 lawsuit, contaminated runoff flowed down the centerline of Parkside Avenue, toward Parish Place and across Riverside Drive into the Polliwog, an 11-acre parcel next to the studio’s Imagineering facilities.

The dumping has since changed to flow through an underground pipeline that flows into the Los Angeles River and curbside drains, according to the claim.

Disney “supplied, dumped, released and deposited and continues to supply, dump, release and deposit vast amounts of chromium 6, air cooling water and residues, and other various toxic waste materials,” according to the lawsuit.

While representatives for Disney would not comment on specifics of the case, they denied any unlawful activity on the part of the studio.

“The allegations of wrongdoing are completely baseless,” said Disney spokesman Jonathan Friedland.

Environmental World Watch, a Delaware corporation with offices in North Hollywood, was hired by the Burbank Rancho Home Owners Assn. in February 2006 to investigate the proposed construction of a sewer line in the area.

During testing of the Polliwog parcel — which is within Burbank city limits, but owned by Los Angeles — as part of a challenge to the draft environmental impact report, the watchdog agency discovered “significant quantities” of chromium 6, according to the lawsuit.

Tests conducted as recently as May 16 found chromium 6 contamination at elevations of 25 feet from natural surface ground, threatening the underground drinking water supplies, according to the complaint.

Ongoing tests also show that dirt dust, particulate and micro-fine hexavalent particles have migrated off of the Polliwog property.

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