Manhattan, after an 11 week trial, found Exxon Mobil liable for a $105 million in damages for contaminating part of the New York City well water supply.
The panel found the oil company had caused contamination with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether or MTBE in six drinking water wells in the borough of Queens and awarded costs for removing MTBE from those locations.
An Exxon-Mobil spokesman Kevin Allexon said the company would not discuss detail of its insurance coverage.
He e-mailed a statement saying the company is “disappointed with this decision and will be considering all our legal options. As we’ve maintained throughout, our service stations were not the source of the MTBE contamination at the Station 6 wells and the city’s own principal expert identified three non-ExxonMobil sources. We do not believe we should be required to compensate the City of New York for someone else’s contamination.”
New York City Law Department’s Corporation Counsel’s office said the jury found Exxon liable for product liability for failure to warn people about the dangerous nature of its product as well as trespass, public nuisance, and negligence.
The law department in a statement noted that several of the nation’s largest oil companies–including Shell, BP, Chevron, Citgo, Hess, and Sunoco–previously settled claims against them for a total of $15 million.
The City presented evidence that Exxon Mobil added MTBE to gasoline knowing that it would contaminate groundwater when the gasoline leaked and knowing that underground storage tanks at gas stations, many of which are owned by Exxon Mobil, regularly leak.
New York also contended that Exxon Mobil ignored warnings from its own scientists and engineers not to use MTBE in areas of the country, like Queens, that use groundwater for drinking water.
Lawyers for the city argued that Exxon Mobil failed to inform government agencies, gasoline station owners, water suppliers, and the public about the dangers from MTBE,
New York State banned MTBE as of 2004, after MTBE polluted groundwater drinking water supplies throughout the State.
Approximately 20 other states have also banned MTBE.
The City’s drinking water supply system includes 68 wells in southeast Queens.