Lawsuit Filed Alleging Toxic Sandblasting Impacts
A Santa Clarita, California-based law firm has recently filed a complaint in the Los Angeles Superior Court against developer Five Points Development, alleging the company of failing to take certain precautions whilst sandblasting.
Owen, Patterson & Owen (OPO) Law claims that the sandblasting operations conducted at a new water tower have negatively affected residents’ health and property living in Stevenson Ranch and Westridge communities.
“Many people have been impacted by the sandblasting but may not even know it is happening right by their neighborhood,” said Greg Owen, Senior Partner at OPO.
About the Lawsuit
In a statement from OPO, the law firm alleges that in June, Five Points Development began construction of a water tower located adjacent to the Stevenson Ranch community as part of the public water system to service the new 21,000-home Five Points Valencia community.
Due to sandblasting operations, some residents in the area claimed that they noticed layers of silica on cars measuring a quarter inch, sometimes a half-inch thick, in addition to accumulation witnessed in their yards and damages occurring to air conditioning units, scratched painted surfaces and pitted windows.
“We have been exposed to and breathing in what they’ve been sandblasting into our neighborhood,” said a Stevenson Ranch resident. “Our property has been damaged by the sandblasting. We have not been able to be in our own backyards because of the air quality and the noise caused by the sandblasting. There was a failure in oversight by just about every party involved and negligent actions in the sandblasting.”
Upon receiving complaints over the neighboring construction, the Westridge Homeowner’s Association also sent out literature regarding the varied degrees of property damage and/or physical effects from the construction of the additional water tower adjacent to Westridge Parkway.
“There are a number of impacted homeowners and neighbors who have been able to connect with each other on this issue to have a collective voice in communications with the entities involved in the construction,” they wrote.
According to reports, exposure to silica particles can cause health issues that affect both the lungs and heart and can even link to conditions such as premature death, reduced lung function, aggravated asthma, and other heightened respiratory symptoms.
In the Santa Clarita communities, residents have recalled unexplained health-related symptoms over the last four months to varying degrees, including but not limited to the following: nosebleeds, headaches, sinus issues, lung issues and throat issues.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a compliance directive designed to ensure uniformity in inspection and enforcement procedures when addressing respirable crystalline silica exposures. The derivative applies to general industry, maritime and construction.
In the new directive, OSHA compliance safety and health officers are provided with guidance on how to enforce silica standard requirements, including:
However, the directive also provides clarity on major topics, variability in sampling, multi-employer situations and temporary workers.
While sandblasting efforts have ceased since the lawsuit was filed on Nov. 23, the law firm alleges that the contractor failed to take precautions directed by law and building code, by not using mandatory methods to prevent silica and iron oxide from becoming airborne and drifting into the nearby community.
In addition to suing for health and safety risks, the law firm also pointed out the residents' rights to the “quiet use and enjoyment” of their home and property, and the right to be free from “trespass.”
Even with operations ceased, the OPO has allegedly collected evidence of toxic cloud and rust particles floating over the Stevenson Ranch and Westridge communities, in addition to a continuance of debris from the abrasive blasting practices, as these particles are extremely light and can continue to float around in the air for long periods of time.
Additionally, the OPO says that it has collected substantial documentation, voice recordings, audio recordings, video recordings, still photographs, and drone footage taken by residents. The firm has also reportedly performed test sampling of 13 homes in the community and have found the toxic particles in all 13 homes.
OPO law is currently recommending that residents in the area who believe they have been impacted, to join the lawsuit.