Pollution Lawsuit Reinstated Against GPC - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Pollution Lawsuit Reinstated Against GPC

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A Muscatine company which was already ordered to pay a record fine to the state this year is now facing the possibility of having to pay out damages to individual residents in the town.

On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that residents can file a class-action lawsuit against Grain Processing Corporation, a plant that turns corn into industrial products.

This court ruling overturns an earlier decision by a district judge who had thrown out the lawsuit before trial. Click here to read it.

Now, the eight muscatine residents who had filed the original suit can resume their legal action, seeking class action status in a suit that could ultimately include hundreds of people living around the GPC plant.

"I think it's great and I believe it should happen," said Sherry Leonard, vice president of the organization Clean Air Muscatine.

Leonard has lived just over a mile from the GPC plant for more than 30 years, and she says she knows first-hand what the pollution created by that company can do for quality of life.

"It gets all over peoples cars, eats the paint off," she said, "and their homes are being destroyed. They can't go outside and enjoy the fresh air."

And that's the claim of the latest lawsuit - that the plant is a nuisance.

Several Muscatine residents we talked to agreed:

"They have had it coming for a long time, I think," said Rod Hahn, when asked about the possibility of a class-action lawsuit.

"It is very stinky," said another Muscatine resident, Roberto Trevino.

"The cars get really dirty, and then there are a bunch of cars that really need to get painted because of the debris that flies from out there," he added.

"Because of the kids and all that live around here and everything, it is just like - pollution is bad, man," said another Muscatine resident, Brandon Lee Hahn.

Still, others say they've had no problems with GPC, and say they're against any legal action that could hurt a major employer in the community.

"Not if it's going to put a lot of people out of work," said Bea Nott, "because we don't have enough work around here now for people to do."

GPC reps say they're disappointed by the Supreme Court decision and are looking at their options, adding in that written statement that they believe it should be up to the EPA and the DNR to regulate air emissions - not the courts.

But, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in this case applauded the court's ruling.

"The Supreme Court decision is great news for our clients and the citizens of Muscatine, and also for the citizens of the state of Iowa," said James C. Lerew.

This week's state Supreme Court ruling is just one more step in a complex legal process that could take years to resolve.

For its part, GPC points out that the court decision does not comment on the merits of the case, and the company says it is "confident that it will ultimately prevail."

Earlier this year, the state of Iowa settled another lawsuit with GPC over EPA violations.

The company was fined $1.5 million and was ordered to invest millions to update the plant.

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