Reporting Meghan McCorkell
JACKSONSVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — More than a billion dollars in damages struck down. The state’s highest court has thrown out a decision against ExxonMobil after one of the largest gas leaks in state history. Now homeowners in Jacksonville, Baltimore County, will not see any of that money.
Meghan McCorkell has reaction from that community.
One of the homeowners tells WJZ the appeals court’s decision is devastating. Many of them are still dealing with the aftermath of the 2006 leak.
For more than a month, 26,000 gallons of fuel from an ExxonMobil station slowly seeped into the well water of hundreds of Jacksonville homes.
“It’s not safe enough for me to drink it. It’s not safe enough for me to feel comfortable cooking with it,” plaintiff Barbara Larrabee told WJZ in 2011.
Barbara and John Larrabee spoke with WJZ right after a jury awarded them $24 million in punitive damages from ExxonMobil.
“You would trade all that away to get rid of the uncertainty that this creates. This turns your life upside down,” John Larrabee said.
Now lives are turned upside down again.
The Court of Appeals reversed some of the damages against Exxon, saying the company’s shortcomings did not amount to fraud. That means 160 home and business owners may not be getting more than a billion dollars the jury originally awarded.
The decision is devastating for some homeowners.
“Their house values have gone down. I know a family that has been divorced because one wanted to stay and one wanted to move,” said Jill Dettor.
“I know that they’re now buying their own drinking water and buying their water for years to come. They can’t sell their houses,” said Dorothy Kirkwood.
As fears continue, so does the cleanup.
Now, seven years later, the site of the old Exxon station remains fenced in, closed for environmental remediation. ExxonMobil has until June 2014 to complete treating the groundwater.
So far, no illnesses have been positively linked to the gas leak.
ExxonMobil has drilled nearly 300 test wells in the Jacksonville area.