Andrews appears in court Monday for water lawsuit

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After more than 10 hours in the courtroom, there is still no ruling on the case between the town of Andrews and Raytheon Technologies.

In June, Andrews residents were informed they could not use the town’s water because of contamination with high amounts of vinyl chloride in the town’s wells. The contamination is believed to have come from a company known as Raytheon Technologies.

The water was deemed safe by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management after the advisory was given and many of the residents still aren’t using it until the town’s wells are replaced.

However, many of the town residents have not used the water since the contamination.

“Who would want to move into a community that they know people are afraid of the water?” said John Harshbarger, the Andrews Town Council President. “Water is one of our basic needs. We need water we can trust.”

This was the first time both parties appeared in court. Due to COVID-19 restriction, only a dozen or so residents were able to sit in the Adams County courtroom.

During opening arguments, Monday, the town of Andrews informed the courtroom it is seeking Raytheon Technology to provide new wells to replace the old and contaminated ones. Raytheon Technologies argues that regularly scheduled maintenance was not kept up with on the current wells in the town therefore they aren’t responsible for consequences due to that.

The president of the town council was the first witness on the stand and answered questions for nearly two hours. His testimony focused on the town’s upkeep with the systems as a whole and the contamination.

Several others took the stand however, the longest testimony came from Dr. James Wells, a registered genealogist and environmental specialist who spent more than five hours on the stand. Dr. Wells served as an expert for the town of Andrews and who had gone over data and research about the town’s wells from the early 1990s to now.

According to Dr. Wells’s testimony and court documents United Technologies, now Raytheon Technologies contaminated the groundwater by dumping hazardous chemicals at the old Dana plant in Andrews. Raytheon Technologies was aware of the contamination to the wells as early as 1993 and started a remediation process which included installing an air stripper, which is supposed to filter out volatile organic chemicals, including vinyl chloride.

However, according to documents from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management shown in court, said that the town’s contamination was “only going to get worse.” Further data shown in court showed that the levels of vinyl chloride in the wells and vapor caused by the water in homes were both on the rise.

Lawyers from Raytheon Technologies made the argument that the levels of vinyl chloride are safe and below EPA regulations. Furthermore, the tests are being conducted from the water in the well, not the water that is cleaned by the air stripper and then distributed into homes.

Also mentioned in court was a second lawsuit the town had filed against the company in 2016. Andrews filed that lawsuit to get the courts to order United Technologies to clean up contamination at the site of the former Dana plant in town. That lawsuit is in the discovery phase in federal court.

The court adjourned for the day but will reconvene on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at the Adams County Courthouse. On Tuesday, lawyers for Raytheon Technologies are expected to call multiple witnesses and experts to speak on their behave.

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