FAIRBANKS — An Alaska Superior Court dismissed part of a case regarding tainted well water in North Pole last week.
James West sued Flint Hills Resources last year, asking the company to pay for medical monitoring, among other things, because he had been drinking contaminated well water.
The water was tainted with sulfolane, an industrial solvent used to refine oil, that originated from the North Pole refinery during previous ownership.
The court rejected the request for medical monitoring because the plaintiff couldn’t prove a connection between sulfolane and his health.
About 200 wells in and around North Pole have been contaminated with sulfolane. Flint Hills discovered the groundwater contamination in 2009.
West drank the tainted water every day for more than two years. His well showed sulfolane concentrations of around 15 parts per billion. The level the state determined actionable is 87.5 ppb for adults, according to the judgment.
West argued the sulfolane could have contributed to his current medical conditions — prostate cancer and tissue lumps — and it could cause future injury.
According to common law in Alaska, you have to prove more than a “mere possibility” of causation in a negligence suit.
The court said West proved only a possibility, not a probability, that sulfolane exposure put him at increased risk of disease. It also said West didn’t specify what diseases he should be tested for.
“Without a probability that sulfolane exposure caused or will cause a specific disease, there is no specific disease to test for,” the judgment stated.
West also filed claims for personal injury and property damage, which are still in litigation.
Flint Hills declined to comment on the claims. But the company is suing The Williams Companies, which owned the refinery during the spill, according to Jeff Cook, spokesman for Flint Hills.
West’s attorney did not return a phone call for comment.
Contact staff writer Molly Rettig at 459-7590.