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Toxic waste suit filed against IBM

Lawsuit alleges IBM efforts to clean up contamination near its birthplace in New York state are inadequate and problems persist.

Lawyers for about 90 current and former residents of New York state filed suit against IBM on Thursday alleging that chemicals from an IBM plant have caused congenital heart defects in infants and kidney cancers in adults, and continue to cause problems.

The tort lawsuit claims that the plant released hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic and hazardous chemicals, including trichloroethylene (TCE), into the air, soil, and groundwater of Endicott, the birthplace of IBM, and the nearby town of Union over several decades.

A "toxic plume" continues to expose residents to hazardous vapors, according to the lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court for the State of New York in Broome County. More lawsuits, alleging wrongful death and personal injury, among other claims, are expected to be filed in coming months, the lawyers said a statement.

"As we explained to plaintiffs' lawyers before they filed this case, these suits have no basis in science or law, and IBM will defend itself vigorously," said IBM spokesman Michael Maloney.

IBM, which operated the plant from 1924 until it was sold in 2002, has paid out more than $2 million and taken other actions to clean up the contamination. The lawsuit alleges that the remediation efforts are not adequate.

Update 11:45 a.m. PST: IBM built all sorts of equipment at the plant, including typewriters, mainframe computers, printed circuit boards, and integrated circuits.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for property devaluation and loss of business value and income, and for personal injuries. Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages, as well as attorneys fees, among other things.

IBM won a lawsuit filed against it in 2003 by two IBM employees who alleged they got sick from working with chemicals at a San Jose, Calif., semiconductor plant and eventually developed cancer as a result. IBM at one time faced more than 100 similar cases around the country, but they were eventually settled or dismissed.