MIAMI – (BUSINESS WIRE) – September 8, 2020–
On August 26, 2020, Florida residents petitioned the United States District Court for permission from the South Florida District Court to file an amended and corrected class action lawsuit alleging that defendants, major sugar cane producers in South Florida, continue to burn large tracts of sugar cane that knowingly the residents of Belle Glade, Canal Point, Clewiston, Indiantown, Moore Haven, Pahokee and South Bay, ie the "danger zone", flooded with toxic smoke and their houses and cars covered with soot and sugar cane debris at Hagens Berman and Berman Law Group . The correction concerns the specific amount of pollutants allegedly introduced into the air shed by the defendants.
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Plaintiffs' newly amended complaint continues to allege that in Palm Beach County alone, defendants burned approximately 3.2 million acres of sugar cane fields in over 80,000 individual incineration incidents between 2009 and 2019. The lawsuit alleges that the smoke from the millions of acres of sugar cane burning exposes residents to a variety of pollutants, including particulates, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and elemental carbon organic carbon.
According to the complaint, sugar cane growers around the world – including growers in Louisiana, Australia, Thailand, South Africa and Brazil – have increasingly given up pre-harvest incineration to mulch their crop waste, increasing their yields and reducing their reliance on chemical fertilizers and Pesticides. The defendants, who receive $ 4 billion annually in federal grants, continue to employ a dangerous and anachronistic harvesting method that rains poisonous ashes on some of Florida's poorest communities. The defendants continued to burn their crops even though COVID-19 has made these communities particularly fragile. According to researchers at Harvard University, even a small increase in the amount of PM 2.5 in the air – particulate matter released in extremely large quantities by the burns of the accused – can increase the COVID-19 death rate.
According to the complaint, the consequences of the accused being burned before the harvest put a disproportionate burden on the residents of the danger zone. Current state regulations deny sugarcane growers permission to burn if the Florida Forest Service believes the winds are blowing clouds of smoke and ash toward the more affluent communities in eastern Palm Beach County and eastern Martin County. However, the Florida Forest Service regularly issues permits for incineration incidents – up to 60 incineration permits per day – when prevailing winds are blowing smoke and plumes of ash towards poorer communities in the danger zone. The complaint alleges that the cremation permits violate residents' civil rights and that the defendants, along with state officials, are depriving residents of their constitutionally protected property rights.
If you live in an area of Florida affected by toxic smoke and ash from the sugar industry's sugar cane burning, find out your rights »
According to the Florida Forest Service database, the defendants burned a total of 1.5 million acres of sugar cane in over 40,000 incineration incidents between 2014 and 2018. The plaintiffs' air distribution model analyzed the effects of each defendant's toxic emissions over that period on 3,500 receptors in a 130 km by 100 km grid. The model examined the following emissions for each defendant: PM 0.5, PM 2.5 and PM 10, carbon monoxide and carbonyl; Sulfur oxides; Nitrogen oxides; Ammonia; Volatile organic compounds; elemental carbon; organic carbon; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; and dioxins / furans over standard averaging times (1-hour, 4-hour, 8-hour, 24-hour and annual time intervals).
An accidental formula error in the EPA-approved AERMOD model used by the plaintiffs' expert caused the previous complaint to overestimate pollutant levels. However, the corrected figures in the amended complaint proposed by the plaintiffs still show that every defendant has an impact on the environment throughout the danger zone and that air quality standards for certain pollutants have been exceeded in many parts of the air shed.
In particular, the corrected modeling performed by plaintiffs shows that each defendant's incineration byproducts effectively covered the entire hazard zone. Each defendant's individual burn had measurable effects on every receptor in Belle Glade, Canal Point, Clewiston, Indiantown, Moore Haven, Pahokee and South Bay in all categories of particulate and every other pollutant measured over each standard averaging time. Overall, the defendants have ensured that the air concentration of dangerous or carcinogenic pollutants exceeded the national standards in the danger zone. During the five years modeled, approximately 16.3% of the receptors on the 13,000 square kilometers exceeded the US 24-hour air quality standards for PM 2.5, particulates that are particularly harmful to health. In some cases, this modeling found an extreme influence: in 2014, for example, a receptor in Pahokee exceeded the national standard by about 5.7 times. Plaintiffs' model also estimates that benzo (a) pyrene, a confirmed human carcinogen emitted by Defendants, exceeded the U.S. EPA's May 2020 regional screening level in all seven communities. 100% of the receptors were affected by each defendant's burning activities.
THE DANGER ZONE
The danger zone includes the towns of Belle Glade, Canal Point, Clewiston, Indiantown, Moore Haven, Pahokee and South Bay, whose residents are hardest hit by sugar cane burning.
The lawsuit makes claims for three classes: a battery class for all residents of the danger zone who have been exposed to carcinogens, hazardous pollutants and particles from the defendant's sugar cane incineration without consent; a medical surveillance class for residents over 40 years of age whose exposure to sugar cane burn poses an increased risk of developing lung cancer; and an owner class for those who own property in the danger zone and have suffered property damage from the accumulation of “black snow” raining down from the burns of the defendants nearby.
The lawsuit is aimed at a court-supervised lung cancer surveillance program and compensation for property damage and personal injury.
Learn more about the class action lawsuit against the Florida sugar industry.
About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer litigation law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm's tenacious pursuit of plaintiff rights has earned it numerous national awards, prizes and "Most Feared Plaintiff & # 39; s Firm" titles as well as MVPs and pioneers of collective rights. You can find out more about the law firm and its achievements at hbsslaw.com. Follow the company for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.
About the Berman Law Group
Founded in 2008, Berman Law Group has expanded to numerous offices in Florida and the United States after quickly building a well-deserved reputation as a tireless and fearless defender of the rights of its clients. The company is headquartered in Boca Raton and has four other offices in Florida as well as offices in New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Further information is available at: bermanlawgroup.com.
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CONTACT: Media contact for Hagens Berman
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KEYWORD: UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA FLORIDA
KEYWORD IN INDUSTRY: LEGAL PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
SOURCE: Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP
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PUB: 08/09/2020 4:56 p.m. / DISC: 09/08/2020 4:56 p.m.