Andrews takes on Raytheon

Representatives from the Town of Andrews, along with Raytheon Technologies, appeared in court on Monday, Nov. 9, over a lawsuit regarding contamination found within the town’s drinking water. The suit was heard by Adams Superior Court Judge Chad Kukelhan.

Approximately a dozen Andrews residents were present, including townspeople and witnesses. This June, the town of Andrews informed their residents that their water should not be used because of contamination found inside of the town’s wells, specifically finding high amounts of vinyl chloride inside of Well 1.

Thomas Barnard, Rodney Michael and Ben Wolowski, all of Taft Stettinius & Hollister Law, represent the town of Andrews. In opening statements, Barnard explained that the town sees that the drinking water emergency that they suffered this summer was created by Raytheon, and are asking for assistance in assuring that Andrews will be helped. Barnard then went on to say that the company took the cheapest route of fixing the issue, rather than the better route.

“Raytheon has created this emergency from their actions and inactions,” Barnard stated. “The risk to the town is present every day that they open the faucet.”

The town has made three requests of Raytheon. Firstly, that Raytheon install new wells for the town, secondly, that they install a new water treatment plant and piping throughout the town; thirdly, that in the meantime, they provide clean drinking water for residents.

Joe Eaton, representing Raytheon, gave a short list of requirements that the town would have to prove in order to have a solid case. These items included proving that the town would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted now, that its potential injury outweighs the harm the injunction would cause, and that the injunction would serve public interest.

Eaton then went on to say that data establishes that the town’s drinking water is safe and listed three main flaws within the town’s argument. The first flaw that Eaton brought to attention was that the relief that Andrews has requested is permanent. According to Eaton’s statements, when the do not drink order was first established, Raytheon and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) offered interim measures. The town then rejected those offers out of hand.

The second flaw presented revolved around the fact that the maximum contaminant level (MCL) standards do not apply to pre-treated well water. According to Eaton, all testing that has been performed – by Stantec, IDEM and the town - confirms that the town’s drinking water is safe.

The third flaw presented is that, should the town’s requests be met, it would require the court to set a completely new policy, rejecting IDEM standards that have been set for Indiana.

After both sides had given their opening statements, Andrews Town Council President John Harshbarger was called to the stand as the first witness. He was first questioned by Rodney Michael, giving the court information about his background as council president and about concerns within the community of Andrews. Several documents, including maps, letters and photographs, were provided to the court by the plaintiffs to further describe the town’s situation.

In the letter presented to the court, which was sent from IDEM to Collin Bullock, the town’s utility superintendent, results of the June 22 test of the town’s water. The letter detailed the contamination found – the vinyl chloride levels found were 30.3 micrograms per liter, which is nearly 15 times above the MCL for vinyl chloride.

Harshbarger stated that “we wouldn’t be moving it [the wells] if it weren’t for them. They contaminated it. We didn’t do this.”

The majority of the questioning from the defendant’s side revolved around specific dates within the timeline of the case, as well as documentation that the town had received about the safety of the water and deficiencies found by IDEM.

According to documentation presented by the defendant, IDEM stated that there were deficiencies in maintenance schedules and repairs that were needed to mechanical parts within the water treatment plant.

Others came to the stand, but registered genealogist and environmental specialist Dr. James Wells spent the majority of the day on the stand, speaking for over five hours.

After a more than 10-hour time-span, the court adjourned. The court will reconvene on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 1 p.m. at the Adams Superior Courthouse.