Residents living by National Pipe & Plastics Inc.'s new factory in an industrial zone of Endicott, N.Y., say the facility has “devastated the neighborhood” with loud noise, foul odors, increased truck traffic, lowered property values and increased worries about health hazards.
They contend the business, which makes mostly PVC pipe, does not belong near houses, a school and a public park with a pool and they are turning to the Broome County Supreme Court for relief. Forty-eight residents living in 33 households filed a lawsuit Nov. 12 seeking a court injunction to force National Pipe to close for allegedly being a public and private nuisance and for trespassing.
The plaintiffs' lawyer, Ronald R. Benjamin, explained the complaint about trespassing in a telephone interview.
“It's not the usual trespass when somebody steps onto your property but noise, toxic emissions, and in this case, we also think there's a good chance there will be some disturbance of the ground water in the area, which means the surface water from the chemicals may contaminate some of the well water in the area,” Benjamin said.
National Pipe President and CEO David Culbertson said he could not comment specifically on the allegations made in the 13-page lawsuit because of the pending litigation.
“We think there are a lot of things that are simply not true and we've turned this over to our attorney,” Culbertson said in a telephone interview, adding he thinks the company will prevail in court.
National Pipe, which is headquartered in Vestal, N.Y., makes PVC and high density polyethylene pipe for the municipal water and sewer, plumbing and electrical conduit end markets. The company has manufacturing facilities in Endicott and Colfax, N.C. With estimated $170 million in sales, the business was ranked 22nd on Plastics News' 2014 survey of pipe, profile and tubing extruders.
National Pipe has owned the 45-acre site in Endicott and the 230,800-square-foot building on it for 12 years. The building had been vacant since 2008, when a tenant with a business called Shop-Vac moved out. In 2012, National Pipe began pursuing plans to expand its product line with larger-diameter pipe by moving production from its headquarters plant in Vestal about five miles away to Endicott.
National Pipe went through a year-long approval process that included a public hearing. A revised site plan for the project was unanimously approved by the local planning board in July 2013. National Pipe then moved ahead with its plans, putting in a new private road for trucks and upgrading the infrastructure with new electrical systems, new silos, a chilled water system, a blending tower and a storage yard. New machinery also was purchased and equipment from Vestal was moved there.
Culbertson said the company invested $25 million at the location and began moving manufacturing operations that “preserved 150 jobs” to Endicott in March.
“We went into this process trying to be a good neighbor. Everything was done according to zoning and according to code. That's where we are,” Culbertson said, declining further comment.
In July, National Pipe announced it had added 27-inch through 48-inch diameter PVC pipe to its water and sewer product line as well as 14-inch to 24-inch HDPE pipe.
That same month, Endicott residents met at the library to discuss legal action over alleged factory odors, noise, traffic and the impact on their property values. Benjamin said he thinks his clients, who area affected by varying degrees, have a good case.
“The most important part of this is that people went from being able to have a nice time in their own homes to being subjected to excessive noise and toxic, noxious odors,” he said. “Just from the smell, people have experienced irritation in their nostrils and throats.”
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs allege they can't sleep at night because of forklifts operating, alarms going off, mechanical humming sounds, exhaust fans roaring, truck motors running, trucks filling silos, loaders moving pipes and the crashing sounds of pipes being dropped.
Twelve plaintiffs also said they have experienced headaches and burning eyes, noses and mouths.
“We've had people feel the foundation of their houses shake because of activity at the factory,” Benjamin said. “Halogen lights come into homes. A number of my clients on the border of where the company is can no longer open their windows. They don't use their back yards. They don't invite people over because people won't come over. They're subjected to this day in and day out. It's totally miserable. They've tried to sell and nobody is going to buy now and if they do property values have been significantly reduced.”
Benjamin said he thinks local officials abdicated their responsibility in approving National Pipe's plans but there's no legal remedy for that.
“Because they're public officials they have immunity that National Pipe doesn't have,” he said. “We want to shut the company down. We don't need elected officials for that. We're also looking for damages but as a practical matter we want this company to move. It doesn't belong in a populated area.”
In addition to the injunction, the plaintiffs are seeking compensation for actual damages, which could be awarded for harm suffered, and punitive damages, which could be awarded as punishment for wrongdoing.
“The law provides people are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their houses,” Benjamin said. “Once you interfere with that then you become liable.”