Trucker claims hazardous load poisoned him

| 10/10/2001

A Washington truckdriver has sued two government contractors in federal court, alleging the companies were negligent because they failed to tell him he was hauling hazardous waste, the Salem, OR, Statesman Journal reported.

Trucker Richard Carras, of Nine Mile Falls, is seeking compensation for long-term health problems he claims began in June 1997, shortly after he hauled several hundred 55-gallon steel drums labeled "Hazardous Material: Contents Unknown" from the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Portland.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 17 in U.S. District Court, names two companies, Services Corporation Inc. of Delaware and Container Management Services (CMS) of California, that were both under defense contracts with the U.S. Army. Carras' suit alleges he lost his voice and developed severe throat lesions from breathing the chemicals until he had surgery to remove the lesions.

When Carras arrived to pick up the drums, workers wearing protective clothing and masks helped him load the drums, while he wore a T-shirt and paper mask, according to the newspaper. When he arrived in Portland, employees at CMS refused to help Carras unload the drums when they realized they contained hazardous waste. Carras unloaded the drums himself.

A spokesman for the Army depot, told the newspaper the waste includes workers' uniforms and equipment that may have been exposed to chemicals but had been decontaminated. He said the drums didn't contain actual chemicals.