Read the full article by Brendan J. Lyons (Times Union)
“ALBANY — A former in-house attorney for Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, which owns a manufacturing plant in Hoosick Falls that contaminated the village’s water supplies with a toxic chemical, alleges he was fired last year after he pushed leaders of the corporation to fully investigate whether their other U.S. plants may have polluted public water supplies with a manmade polymer.
The attorney, Amiel Gross, worked for Saint-Gobain for six years at its headquarters in Malvern, Pa., including on litigation involving toxic pollution. In a whistleblower complaint he filed with the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month, Gross alleges the company’s CEO and other top officials labeled him a ‘troublemaker’ and dissuaded him from doing an investigation.
The civil complaint, which seeks reinstatement and back pay, also said that Saint-Gobain may have used far greater amounts of a highly concentrated version of the toxic chemical at its plants in Hoosick Falls, Bennington, Vt., and Merrimack, N.H., than has been disclosed to regulatory agencies.
A spokeswoman for Saint-Gobain said Gross’ allegations are ‘without merit’ and she noted the complaint filed with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration was dismissed last week.
‘We had always contended Mr. Gross’ suit was baseless,’ said Lia T. LoBello, the company’s spokeswoman. ‘Mr. Gross was separated from the company following an investigation for violating company policies, including our harassment prevention policy, among others. In his suit, Mr. Gross makes many false allegations.’
Jeanne M. Christensen, an attorney for Gross, countered that the dismissal was ‘technical’ — the dismissal said the complaint was not filed in a timely fashion — and did not address the merits of the case. Christensen said they intend to file an objection to the dismissal and she added that it will not prevent Gross from seeking legal recourse in a Pennsylvania court for his alleged wrongful termination.
The 43-page complaint, in addition to accusing top company officials of silencing Gross and threatening his law credentials, revealed that Saint-Gobain had purchased and used significant quantities of pure perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, at its manufacturing facilities in Hoosick Falls, as well as at similar manufacturing sites in Bennington and Merrimack, where the plants were also found to have contaminated groundwater supplies.
Gross said that in early 2020, he was tasked with ‘performing an analysis of options for shifting some of Saint-Gobain’s mounting financial and legal liability to raw material suppliers who manufactured PFOA-containing products, principally 3M.’
In response, Gross said, he enlisted outside lawyers to conduct electronic searches of ‘millions of documents’ that had been gathered in the various class-action lawsuits filed against the company, including cases in federal courts in Albany and Vermont.
The data search focused on finding documents revealing evidence of 3M’s sales of PFOA products to the company’s sites in Hoosick Falls, Bennington and Merrimack. Gross also interviewed ‘fact witnesses,’ his complaint said, who had direct knowledge of the company’s use of a 3M product, ‘F-143’ or ‘Fluorad,’ which contained 100 percent PFOA.
Potentially thousands of pounds of the product were used at the three manufacturing sites, the complaint states…”