HARVEY, La. -- A 33-acre tract of land, not far from the Harvey Canal in Harvey was once home to a huge oil field equipment cleaning business. Large pipes and offshore equipment covered the landscape for about four decades.
But according a lawsuit filed on behalf of about 200 neighbors, the equipment cleaned there polluted the property with dangerous radioactive material.
"I knew we had problems," said Ernest Nettles, who lives across from the now vacant lot.
Nettles says his kids grew up playing next to the field. He now worries about the possible health implications of years of exposure to the contamination. "I've had prostate problems and other little minor problems and I don't know if it's from this or what."
Another neighbor Sheila Herron grew up next door to the tract of land. She says cancer killed her parents and two of her sisters died from sudden illnesses.
"My father, when he was living, he used to have crops back there where he used to grow vegetables and stuff and we ate from all of this," said Herron. "Come later to find out, all that land was contaminated with radiation."
Herron and Nettles are among those now suing the operators of the pipe cleaning business, about a dozen oil companies and the land owner, retired Jefferson Parish State Judge Joseph Grefer.
An earlier lawsuit filed by Grefer, awarded his family $112 million in punitive damages and $56 million to remediate the land.
That doesn't sit well with people now suing Grefer.
"He got paid," said Nettles. "I want to get paid. He don't live here, I live here. I've been living here all my life. It seems like that don't count. Only the guys who own the land and have a few dollars, they get a little something out of it. Everybody around here, we're just peasants. We really don't count."
"From what they said, they got theirs, but the people here in Harvey haven't received anything," said Herron.
We placed calls to Joseph Grefer, his attorney and attorneys for Exxon Mobile seeking comment for this story. Grefer's attorney Eb Garrison said he would talk with his client and possibly have a statement on the lawsuit at a later time.