Saturday, October 15, 2011

Baltimore County leak leaves Exxon with bill for $1 billion

In 2006 a gas leak in the community of Jacksonville, Baltimore County Maryland, resulted in 26,000 gallons of fuel entering the ground underneath one of Exxon Mobil’s local stations. The gas eventually ended up in the community’s water supply resulting in significant contamination. Jacksonville does not have a source of public water and extracts all of its water from underground wells. This gas leak lasted for a total of 37 days. As a result of this leak, Exxon Mobil was sued by more than 160 homeowners. Exxon was eventually ordered to pay more than $1 billion in punitive damages and $495 million in compensatory damages. This gas leak had a very big impact on residents and small business owners of Jacksonville. For weeks they were unsure whether or not the water was contaminated or if it was safe to once again drink. Residents and business owners both had to spend a great deal of money on other sources of water during this period. This gas leak not only damaged the environment but it really disrupted the community of Jacksonville in many ways. People were forced to find alternatives and do whatever was necessary in order to obtain the water they needed for their everyday activities and businesses’. There was also a stigma from neighboring areas about Jacksonville after this and people did not trust that the water was safe for a long time. Exxon’s punitive damages payment is the 21st largest in history. This verdict will hopefully remind other companies similar to Exxon to ensure the necessary safety precautions are in place to prevent a catastrophe similar to this from happening again. This gas leak clearly affected all different types of people and hopefully it will lead as an example of what can be prevented in the future by ensuring proper safety regulations.
--David Dierking

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