- A federal judge has issued a $50.6 million judgment in favor of 1,025 plaintiffs in the Baugo North area of Indiana in a six-year lawsuit against VIM Recycling — one of the largest environmental judgments in Indiana history, according to South Bend Tribune. Residents complained for years of smoke, dust and rotten odors from the site and resulting headaches, respiratory problems, nosebleeds, and rashes.
- VIM sold the facility to Soil Solutions for $8 million in 2011. The new owner, who is not held liable in this lawsuit, will end operations there by July 2019 in accordance with the settlement mandating that the property to be cleaned and that no similar waste-processing operations locate there.
- Moving forward, VIM President Kenneth Will’s assets will be investigated. The phone numbers in Will's name have been disconnected and he no longer has an attorney; the court ruling was made by default. Though it is unknown whether plaintiffs will receive the awards.
Residents say they are not as interested in the monetary award as in seeing the plant cleaned and shut down.
"Do they have any money? I don't know. If we get nothing, we'll be more than happy that the area is going to be cleaned up, and we'll get our lives back," said Wayne Stutsman, a long-time resident of the neighborhood.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon wrote that plaintiffs felt like prisoners in their own homes. They had "to keep all of the windows and doors closed tight in an effort to escape the rancid smells and filth ..."
This is among examples of residents finally being heard after years of complaints of suffering physical harm from pungent emissions from a nearby site.
Kim Ferraro, attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, reiterated Stutsman’s point that the lawsuit was not about financial gain. "Although $50 million sounds like a significant amount, it goes to compensate more than 1,000 people for years of harm. For the community, what it signifies is the scope of harm. The court put a dollar amount on what they went through," Ferraro said.