New York Court Rules that Union Carbide Can’t Be Sued for Ongoing Pollution in Bhopal

Union Carbide's Abandoned Factory. Photo (c) Giles Clarke.
Union Carbide’s Abandoned Factory. Photo (c) Giles Clarke.

In bad news for the campaign for justice in Bhopal, on May 24th a New York federal appeals court found that Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) could not be sued for the ongoing pollution of drinking water caused by toxic waste dumped in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. This makes the ongoing petition campaign (running until 14 June 2016), hoping to force the hand of the US Department of Justice and see Dow Chemical in the Bhopal courts, even more pressing: PETITION

“We disagree with the Court’s interpretation of the evidence.” said Richard Herz, Senior Litigation Attorney for EarthRights International (ERI), which represents the plaintiffs. “The Court concluded that UCC is not responsible for the actions of its own employee, who oversaw the construction of the plant. Additionally, two leading experts concluded that UCC’s technology and waste disposal strategy for the plant was improper for the site, and caused the water pollution that we still see today.”

Marco Simons, ERI’s General Counsel, added, “These families have been living with Union Carbide’s pollution for decades. This lawsuit is only one of the many efforts, in India and the United States, to obtain justice and a cleanup for the people of Bhopal, and we remain committed to that work.”

Plaintiffs plan to file a petition for rehearing.

  • The groundwater aquifer in Bhopal, around the abandoned Union Carbide factory (site of 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster), is heavily contaminated with highly toxic chemicals.
  • The contamination is being caused by water leaching through toxic waste that was buried on the factory site and by leakage from solar evaporation ponds located just outside of the factory site.
  • The chemicals leaching in to the water are highly toxic. They attack all of the body’s organs, some are known carcinogens, and others cause birth defects.
  • The solar evaporation ponds are known to have been leaking years before the disaster (an internal Union Carbide memo from 1982 reveals this).
  • Union Carbide was aware of the environmental and groundwater contamination, after carrying out tests in the area, but chose to keep the findings of these tests secret.
  • The US courts accept that the water contamination is a separate issue from the gas disaster.

More on the water contamination.

More on detail on the Sahu II court case.

Bhopal related court cases involving Union Carbide/ Dow Chemical






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