U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Ponders Navy Water Pollution

For decades, an aircraft carrier would dump about 410,000 gallons of human waste into the ocean every day.

Multiply that by 10 aircraft carriers, and you have a whole lot of ship waste. But that's not the real problem in Giovanni v. United States Department of Navy.

The plaintiffs just want the government to pay for medical monitoring of drinking water that the Navy contaminated over the years. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals is chewing on it.

Hazardous Waste

Kristen Giovanni and her family allege the Navy improperly disposed of hazarous waste near their Pennsylvania home for decades. They said toxic chemicals leaked into the groundwater, exposing them to various cancer risks.

"As a result of their exposure to the PFCs, plaintiffs have a significantly increased risk of contracting kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pregnancy-induced hypertension, high cholesterol and other diseases," their lawsuit states.

The Giovannis do not claim damages for any illness. They aren't asking for clean-up or punitive damages.

"We're not asking for money in our pockets," their attorney said at oral arguments. "We're asking for a government fund to monitor."

Medical Monitoring

Mark Cuker said Pennsylvania law requires polluters to provide medical monitoring. The plaintiffs propose blood tests and coverage for medical costs.

Jeff Beelaert, representing the Navy, said medical monitoring would interfere with the government's removal and remedial actions already underway.

"This could be going on for decades," Judge Kent Jordan said.

With decades of Navy pollution in the water, that could be a lifetime.

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