Bank Accused of Burning Through More Than Money: Wells Fargo Sued Over Toxic Industrial Blaze

Categories: Law & Order


In a lawsuit that redefines the phrases "toxic assets" and "burning through money," Wells Fargo was last week sued in San Francisco federal court. The bank is accused of first allowing noxious chemicals to seep out of lumber equipment it was in the process of selling off in Mendocino County before inadvertently sparking a massive conflagration. The fire not only consumed the equipment  -- it burned through large quantities of truly nasty materials on site.  

The lumber equipment had been seized by the bank after the Harwood Investment Company declared bankruptcy while still owing Wells millions. Wells may know its way around stagecoaches, but lumber equipment seems to be a challenge yet. The bank and its agent, Rabin Worldwide, Inc., are accused of punching a hole in a wall on the Branscomb, Calif. facility that allowed the free flow of propiconazole into the ground -- as well as freely dumping water mixed with phosphoric acid.

But contaminated water isn't as bad as contaminated fire. On January 29, an errant spark incurred while dismantling the lumber equipment  burned the facility to a crisp -- and also managed to immolate the chemical storage area (that's never good). Phosphoric acid, fungicides, naphthalene, benzine, zylene, gear oil, hydraulic oil, and lubricating oil all went up in smoke. But wait -- it gets worse.

The plaintiffs allege the fire could have been easily nipped in the bud -- if, that is, the defendants had bothered to make sure the emergency fire hoses had water in them (they didn't). And the water that was eventually use to douse the flames? You guessed it -- allegedly contaminated.  

In essence, Harwood is suing Wells and Rabin over cleanup costs -- and claim damages of at least $1.7 million.

Those passing through Branscomb are advised to hold their breath -- and not eat anything they drop on the ground. 

H/T   |   Courthouse News


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