Two Illinois public agencies responsible for protecting the public health -- the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency -- have recently refused to provide data to help the residents of Metropolis litigate their environmental claims, including claims of radiation contamination asserted in a pending class action lawsuit against Honeywell.
The class action alleges Honeywell has mismanaged its nuclear facility in Metropolis for decades, contaminating large swaths of surrounding property and homes in the area.
"Property owners in the vicinity believe that the contamination has significantly impacted property values and put them at higher risk for certain cancers caused by radiation, requiring the medical monitoring of their health among other damages," explained Richard Kruger, a local resident and one of the attorneys for the contamination victims.
To litigate the class action claims, the victims' attorneys requested the state agencies turn over documents relating to environmental monitoring of the facility and cancer rates, pursuant to Freedom of Information Act requests.
However, the state agencies have refused to turn over data, forcing several of the community's attorneys to sue the agencies in separate state-court lawsuits to compel the release of their data.
"Restriction of the vital data the community needs, paid for with taxpayer funds, is outrageous, unacceptable and completely contrary to the interests of these citizens," said Kruger.
"The agencies' refusal to cooperate is particularly troubling, noting the recently filed lawsuits because the very purpose of these agencies is to protect the public health and community from the dangers of radiation -- the very dangers the community now faces.
"It should not take a lawsuit for the state agencies to do their jobs," added Kruger.
Former Illinois State Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne finds the agencies' noncompliance with the requests unacceptable, and Kruger is also expecting the City of Metropolis and County of Massac to pass resolutions condemning the agencies' denials.
Kruger, along with Katrina Carroll and Nicholas R. Lange of Carlson Lynch LLP and James F. Clayborne Jr. of Clayborne and Wagner LLP, are prosecuting the lawsuits to compel the agencies' compliance.