The Cumberland County Board of Commissionersunanimously approved a contract Monday withthree law firms to represent the county in its move toward potential legal action against a chemical company that has a plant in Bladen County just across the county line.
Chemours, which owns the facility just of N.C. 87, makes GenX there. The compound also is a byproduct of other processes at the plant.
Hundreds of private wells are contaminated with GenX and similar chemicals.
GenX has been linked to cancer and other health issues in animal studies, but it isn’t known if the effect is the same in humans. Chemours officials have said the amount of GenX in the wells is not harmful.
Commissioners voted to hire Crueger Dickinson LLC of Wisconsin, Baron & Budd of Washington D.C. and Seagle Law of Asheville to jointly investigate any claims the county may have against the facility and advise county officials on whether to move forward with legal action, according to documents provided to commissioners for Monday’s meeting.
The agenda item was supposed to appear on the items of business during the public portion of Monday night’s meeting but was delayed for a while after County Manager Amy Cannon called for a closed session to discuss the contract. The commissioners unanimously approved the motion after coming out of the closed session.
After the closed session, Cannon said the commissioners spoke with an attorney. Commissioners Toni Stewart, Michael Boose and Larry Lancaster weren’t present at the meeting.
At the board’s meeting June 7, County Attorney Rick Moorefield suggested going with Crueger Dickinson, though he said he’d also had conversations with the North Carolina representatives with Baron & Budd.
Moorefield said June 7 that those two law firms combined took on about 90% of all environmental contamination cases nationwide.
In an email Monday, Moorefield said the reason the county sought the help of three firms instead of one was because the firms typically work together on cases similar to the county’s, and could’ve worked together even if they weren’t hired together.
Under the contract, the attorneys will take 15% of any recovery the county receives prior to a lawsuit. The attorneys would get 25% of the recovery if county officials decide to file suit. Fees also would be reimbursed if there’s recovery, according to the agenda.
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