Prior amendment contained an overstatement of pollutant quantities due to an inadvertent formula error in the model used by Plaintiffs’ expert, but corrected amendment does not change the assertion that sugarcane growers use an archaic and environmentally damaging method of harvest that contaminates entire communities along the southern and southeastern shore of Lake Okeechobee
September 08, 2020 04:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time
MIAMI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On August 26, 2020, Florida residents sought leave of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida court to file an amended and corrected class-action lawsuit that alleges that Defendants, major sugarcane growers in southern Florida, continue to burn vast acreages of sugarcane, knowingly inundating residents of Belle Glade, Canal Point, Clewiston, Indiantown, Moore Haven, Pahokee, and South Bay, i.e., the “Hazard Zone,” with toxic smoke and blanketing their homes and cars with soot and cane residue, according to Hagens Berman and Berman Law Group. The correction concerns the specific amount of pollutants allegedly discharged into the airshed by Defendants.
Plaintiffs’ newly amended complaint continues to maintain that in Palm Beach County alone, Defendants burned approximately 3.2 million acres of sugarcane field over the course of over 80,000 individual burn events between 2009 and 2019. The lawsuit alleges that the smoke from the millions of acres of burning sugarcane exposes residents to a wide range of pollutants, including particulate matter, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, elemental carbon and organic carbon.
According to the complaint, sugarcane growers around the world—including growers in Louisiana, Australia, Thailand, South Africa, and Brazil—have increasingly abandoned pre-harvest burning in favor of mulching their plant waste, thereby boosting their yields and reducing their dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Yet Defendants, who receive $4 billion a year in federal subsidies, persist in using a dangerous and anachronistic harvesting method that rains toxic ash down on some of Florida’s poorest communities. Defendants continued to burn their crops even as COVID-19 has rendered these communities particularly fragile. According to researchers at Harvard University, even small increases in the amount of PM2.5 in the air—fine particulate matter that Defendants’ burns release in extremely large quantities—may increase the COVID-19 mortality rate