Merck  Pollution

Closing arguments set in Merck contamination case

The Associated Press

Mar. 28, 2011

Closing arguments are set for Tuesday morning in a trial involving a former subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant Merck accused of polluting groundwater, air and soil in a Merced subdivision for years.

About 2,000 residents of the subdivision claim the now-shuttered plant leaked hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical made famous in the movie "Erin Brockovich.

The plant used the chemicals to pressure-treat wood from 1969 to 1991.

Merck officials acknowledge that chromium contamination occurred, but deny that any of it left the confines of the plant.

The trial is just the first phase. If jurors decide that the contamination did leak out, a second jury will be convened to decide whether residents were harmed by exposure to the chemical.