METROPOLIS, Ill. — City of Metropolis and Massac County officials have agreed to be plaintiffs in a planned lawsuit against Honeywell regarding how operations at its Metropolis facility have impacted the public’s health and welfare.
Both the Metropolis City Council and Massac County Commission approved motions earlier this week to participate in a civil lawsuit to be filed by the Thompson Barney law firm, of Charleston, West Virginia.
Representatives of Thompson Barney, who have been working with local attorney Richard Kruger on a number of lawsuits against Honeywell from private individuals, outlined the new lawsuit for the city and county.
Metropolis City Attorney Rick Abell, who attended both sessions, said he was given the impression the law firm might be ready to file on behalf of the city and county within a week.
The lawsuit would be filed in Federal District Court in East St. Louis.
“They have approached us and said this is very much like what we would consider a public nuisance where one party using their property has an adverse impact on surrounding properties, on value, usage as well as possibly impacting public health and welfare,” Abell said.
“Those are the things that units of government have the right to control and affect. They (lawyers) have approached the city with the information they’ve been able to gather on Honeywell’s operations that point to the fact that there’s been, for example, releases of radiation and releases of contaminated emissions from the plant that have impacted our community adversely.”
The law gives municipalities, when it comes to nuisances, “the right to abate or take action against those nuisances to stop them and prevent them,” Abell said.
“That doesn’t mean you stop the operation of the plant. It (lawsuit) focuses on making the operations of the plant safe, to protect the rights of your citizens, protect their property, their health.”
Areas impacted by possible contamination could be located in both the city and county.
“You can force them to clean those things up as well as clean up within the boundaries of the plant so that its operations are resumed, these hazards don’t continue,” he said.
Honeywell announced in February plans to restart the Metropolis Works facility in 2023.
The city attorney reiterated the purpose of the lawsuit “is not to keep them from being a good, strong employer here. In fact, this is not an effort to shut this down. It’s an effect to make sure going forward they operate safely and with consideration for public health and public property and we think that can be done,” Abell said.
“There just needs to be some local control exercised ... that is what this is about.”