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Press contact: Kathy Parrent, NRDC, 212-727-4408 or Kidd Dorn, NRDC, 212-727-4475; John Dieffenbacher-Krall, Maine People's Alliance, 207-990-0672
If you are not a member of the press, please write to us at nrdcinfo@nrdc.org or see our contact page.

Trial Begins March 4, 2002 in Federal Court in Portland, Maine Mercury Pollution Case

'David vs. Goliath' citizen suit says toxins 'may pose risk of imminent and substantial endangerment'
WHO: Maine People's Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) v. Holtrachem Manufacturing Company and Mallinckrodt Inc.

(Attorneys for plaintiffs are: Mitchell S. Bernard, Nancy S. Marks and Corinne Schiff, NRDC; Philippe Z. Selendy, Helen Maher, Boies, Schiller & Flexner; Eric J. Uhl, Moon, Moss, McGill, Hayes & Shapiro.)
WHAT: Lawsuit against former owners of Orrington, Maine chemical plant for mercury pollution of the Penobscot River. Suit brought under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) asks the court to determine the harm to human health and the environment and to eliminate risks of downriver mercury contamination.
WHERE: Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse
156 Federal Street
Portland, Maine 04101
Courtroom of Judge Gene Carter
WHEN: Begins Monday, March 4, ends on March 22, 2002. (Trial will run 3 weeks.)
8:30 a.m. to 2:15 pm
Cameras not allowed in courtroom, but are allowed on steps outside.
BACKGROUND: In a citizen suit against the past and present owners of a chemical plant in Orrington, Maine, NRDC and the Maine People's Alliance are asking the federal district court for an order compelling the defendants to abate the "imminent and substantial endangerment" to human health and the environment stemming from their release of mercury into the Penobscot River. Although the plant is no longer operating, starting in 1967 Mallinckrodt contributed enormous amounts of mercury into the Penobscot River. The suit maintains that mercury-laden sediments near and downriver of the facility continue to pose a threat to the Penobscot River and the Bay. It asks for an independent study to assess the scope of mercury pollution downriver and to determine the best course for ridding the river of the risk of mercury contamination. Expert witnesses will testify to the threat mercury poses to the environment and local residents will testify to the harm they have seen and experienced.

Mercury is among the most persistent pollutants in the environment. It is a highly toxic metal known to have harmful effects on fish, wildlife, and humans. Even at low levels it has been shown to cause behavioral abnormalities, serious physiological disorders, reproductive disorders, and birth defects. Despite government involvement dating back 30 years, there has not been a systematic study of the effects of mercury on fish and wildlife downriver of the plant.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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