TOWSON, Md. (WJZ)–This country’s worst case of underground drinking water contamination happened in Jacksonville, Baltimore County.
Now Mike Schuh reports the second trial against Exxon by homeowners has begun.
For the second time, Exxon is being sued for allowing 26,000 gallons of gasoline leak from its station in the heart of Jacksonville.
In a Towson courtroom, Exxon opened with admission of guilt saying: “We at ExxonMobil are responsible. We are sorry. This should not have happened. It is unacceptable,” said James F. Sanders, ExxonMobil attorney.
The lawyers for the 150 families suing Exxon hope to prove that the oil company knew about the release and did nothing. If they are able to prove that, the jury could award hundreds of millions more than the last case Exxon lost here in 2009.
A crucial idea the homeowners want the jurors to understand is that Exxon’s efforts to suck the gasoline out of the ground has largely failed.
In fact, state documents show gasoline chemicals are still moving underground away from the station, partially because of this:“What’s beneath Jacksonville is not soil, it’s rock. And it’s very hard, a lot like this windshield. What that means is, the gasoline is not being absorbed by the rock. That rock is very fractured.”
So, the gasoline is not being absorbed by the rock, gravity always pulling it down.
One homeowner settled with Exxon, but she sums up the feelings of her neighbors.
“You could see the worry on people’s faces,” said Anne Curry, of Jacksonville.
There are 16 lawyers huddled in front of the judge and jurors, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. This trial is expected to continue for at least six months.
This incident has already resulted in a $150 million verdict against Exxon. That judgment favoring 88 homeowners is now on appeal in Annapolis.