MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – FOX10 News has obtained court documents detailing the latest developments on a lawsuit between Eight Mile residents and Mobile Gas.
A group of Eight Mile residents is suing Mobile Gas because they claim the gas company is responsible for a chemical spill that is exposing them to the potent fumes of tert-butyl mercaptan. Mercaptan is a foul-smelling chemical added to natural gas lines to help the human nose detect a leak.
However, Mobile Gas spokesperson Keissha Davis said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.
The “Eight Mile Community Q&A” section on the gas company’s website states in 2008, a line used to carry odorant leaked after being damaged by lightning.
According to the website, the gas company is still investigating whether the 2008 leak has any connection to the odor that residents in the Eight Mile community started reporting in 2011.
The attorneys for Eight Mile residents claim the gas company was leaking thousands of gallons of mercaptan before the alleged lightning strike.
In 2012, The Alabama Department of Environmental Management, or ADEM, ordered Mobile Gas to get rid of the potent smell and get the chemical out of the soil and groundwater.
The gas company set up a mitigation system at where ADEM said the chemical is coming to the surface. ADEM and Mobile Gas both claim the system is working to lessen the smell.
Some residents say, however, it’s not doing enough and they are still suffering
Inside the Case
Attorney’s representing Eight Mile residents are in the process of getting the oral testimonies, or depositions, of people they believe are crucial to the case.
The plaintiffs want to depose Edgar Downing. They claim he was Mobile Gas’ senior vice president, secretary, environmental compliance officer and its general counsel when the 2008 spill occurred.
The plaintiffs claim Downing was responsible for all aspects of the mercaptan spill, from clean up to notifying the proper authorities.
The plaintiff’s attorneys also claim at the time of the 2008 spill Downing was in the middle of negotiations with Sempra, the company that now owns Mobile Gas. The attorneys allege before the sale was final, Sempra asked Mobile Gas f there had been any spills or releases that violated environmental laws.
The court documents says Sempra testified that Mobile Gas never mentioned the 2008 spill. Court document went on to say Sempra’s representatives testified they would have wanted to know about the spill so they could have conducted an independent investigation.
The sale went through and Mobile Gas is still owned by Sempra today.
The plaintiffs attorney allege Downing, made close to a million dollars from the sale.
Mobile Gas filed a motion for a protective order to quash (or prohibit) the deposition of Edgar Downing. The gas company said Downing is protected by attorney-client privileges because he is the company’s general counsel.
Mobile Gas said there are other means by which to obtain the information sought by the plaintiffs; the information sought is privileged, that the information sought is not crucial to the preparation of the case.