More than 1,700 people in Elkhart will now be represented as part of a class action lawsuit against Soil Solutions Company, VIM Recycling Inc., K.C. Industries LLC, and Kenneth R. Will accused of dumping and processing waste materials in unsafe and negligent ways.
The decision to expand the lawsuit, originally filed on behalf of 140 people who live near the waste facility, was issued on Jan. 29, by Indiana’s United States Northern District Court Judge Philip Simon.
A staff attorney with the Hoosier Environmental Council began representing the residents in 2008 to help them put an end to the harmful dust, pollutant runoff, smoke and extreme noxious odors they experience from the unsafe dumping, processing and smoldering emissions from waste materials at the site.
“When the winds blew toward my house from that direction, I had to get inside and close all my doors and windows or the smell would make me make me sick to my stomach. The smell would fill my nose and mouth and actually I still couldn’t escape it inside my house until we replaced our doors and windows. Surely we can run businesses in Elkhart and preserve our way of life at the same time,” said plaintiff Carmine Green, one of the six plaintiffs who will represent the entire group of 1,700 residents named in the class action lawsuit. “This river community is what draws people like me here in the first place and we want to live here – healthy hopefully – forever.”
The case received considerable media attention in the summer of 2007, after the facility and its massive waste piles caught fire, prompting fire departments from Elkhart and surrounding communities to the scene.
“This decision ensures that all of the residents of this impacted community who might not otherwise be able to afford to legally protect their rights to clean air and a safe home, can take action to protect their homes and families,” said HEC staff attorney [and] water policy director, Kim Ferarro. “This is central to what we do at HEC – help ensure that all Hoosiers live in a safe and healthy environment.”
Now that the class is certified, a notice will be sent to all 1,700 residents advising them of their status as class members, and what to do if they want to opt out of the class action proceeding.