Pollution from a former petroleum storage plant has been seeping through the ground water under the food-cart pod Cartlandia for decades, and may be leaking into Johnson Creek because current and former landowners Progressive Insurance and Chevron refused to take action, according to two lawsuits filed Thursday.
The SE 82nd Ave. food cart pod sits adjacent to land that Chevron USA and its predecessor, Standard Oil Company, used as a bulk storage facility for petroleum for at least 40 years.
But the lawsuits allege that groundwater contaminated with petroleum didn't stop seeping toward Cartlandia and Johnson Creek when Progressive bought the property in 2014. Cartlandia owners Roger Goldingay and Carol Otis say the pollution continues to this day.
Goldingay and Otis filed identical trespass lawsuits against Progressive and Chevron in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Thursday night, demanding that the companies pay to clean up pollution on their property.
"At a minimum, this was reckless," says Brooks Foster, Goldingay and Otis' attorney. "We gave those guys more than enough information for a reasonable person who's acting normally to find out whether they had contamination migrating onto the Springwater Corridor and Cartlandia."
In July, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued two letters about contamination found by an independent environmental assessment firm the couple hired, according to the complaints. One letter named Progressive as a "potential responsible party for contamination that has been identified in the area," while the other said Chevron "is being listed as a potential responsible party for area contamination based upon their prior ownership of the Progressive property," the lawsuits state.
Goldingay and Otis bought their property in 2010. The couple opened Cartlandia the following year. In 2014, they hired Evergreen Environmental Management to assess the property.
Evergreen found petroleum contamination and traced it to Cartlandia's neighbor, according to the complaints.
Evergreen found "it is likely that leaked product" from the bulk petroleum plant "is still working its way towards Johnson Creek through the Cartlandia and Springwater Corridor properties."
Progressive's attorney allegedly rejected the idea that the contamination had originated from its property.
Progressive spokesman Jeff Sibel did not return a phone call requesting comment. The media relations department for Chevron did not return an email requesting comment.
Foster, the Cartlandia attorney, says the leakage isn't a danger to cart-pod customers.
"We don't think there are any risks to any visitors at the property," Foster tells WW. "No one has said there's any chance of risk from vapors leaching up from the groundwater because the contamination we discovered appears to be fairly far below ground in the ground water. It's more that the creek is a possible destination for that contamination."