Land Owner Claims Goodyear Left Hazardous Soil After Using Land for Airstrip

Moreland Properties LLC filed a complaint on Monday in the District of Arizona alleging that Goodyear and Goodyear Farms allowed hazardous substances, specifically arsenic and toxaphene, to be released on land which was owned and operated by the companies by leasing it for use as an airstrip for pesticide and herbicide application planes. The plaintiff claimed that the actions of the defendants caused significant soil contamination, and that the defendants misled them to believe the land had been cleaned sufficiently for non-residential uses when the plaintiffs purchased the lot from Goodyear. 

The plaintiff explained that a currently vacant property in Maricopa County, Ariz. was owned and operated by Goodyear, along with “thousands of acres of various properties in Arizona” which have reportedly been owned by the defendant since 1916, until it was purchased by the plaintiff in 2010. Monday’s complaint said that the particular site was run through Goodyear’s subsidiary Southwest Cotton Company starting in the 1910s, which has been known as Goodyear Farms since 1943. The site was reportedly leased during the 1970s and 1980s and used “as an aerial pesticide and herbicide application airstrip” which included a hangar used for fueling and maintenance, a mixing and storing area for the chemicals, and burn areas. 

Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) inspected the site during this time, leading to a site assessment and clean-up plan from Goodyear in 2002. According to the complaint, Goodyear excavated 4,100 tons of contaminated soil and later transported the soil to a landfill. The company later sought a Declaration of Environmental Use Restriction (DEUR) from the department, which would ensure that future owners were aware of the pollution in the ground and restrict use of the plot to non-residential. The DEUR was approved in 2004. 

Moreland purported that it thought, based on Goodyear’s representations and the presence of the DEUR, that the site had been cleaned sufficiently to allow non-residential development and use, however, when they did an evaluation in 2017 they found that high concentrations for arsenic and toxaphene remained, and the plot did not meet the required soil remediation levels (SRLs), which were reported in Goodyear Farms’ DEUR.  In 2019, the plaintiff reportedly found in further analysis while working with the ADEQ that many locations at the site did not meet the SRLs. 

The plaintiff said it had incurred $638,000 in cleanup costs so far, and asked the court to require the defendants to pay for the recovery costs, alleging that it made misleading statements in its request for a DEUR, and that they should have known that the misrepresentations it made in its reports to the ADEQ would create a risk for future site owners. 

Moreland, represented by Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A., asked the court for “actual, incidental, and compensatory damages,” for the defendant to be required to pay response costs incurred by the plaintiff to clean the lot, and for punitive damages to deter them from making similar misrepresentations in the future.