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Company settles suit, will pay Modesto $20 million

MODESTO -- An Alabama construction company has agreed to pay Modesto $20 million to settle a lawsuit the city filed in 1998 against businesses that supplied and used dry cleaning solvents that leaked into groundwater.

Vulcan Materials Company could owe the city even more money. It is appealing a San Francisco Superior Court judge’s August ruling ordered the company to pay Modesto $7.25 million for damages in one round of dry cleaning sites, the company said.

The new sum removes Vulcan from a second trial the city was pursuing in the same court centering on a different set of contaminated sites.

City leaders said today they were pleased with the settlement.

“Anything that’ll help pay for the impact of that chemical is going to be helpful and it means the taxpayers are not going to have pay for that part of the cleanup,” City Manager George Britton said.

Two more companies, R.R. Street & Co. and Dow Chemical Co., are part of the second trial. Neither has settled.

Assistant City Attorney Roland Stevens expects the case to go to trial at least with Dow.

Those three companies were ordered to pay Modesto $175 million by a San Francisco jury in June as a punitive award, in addition to more than $3 million in compensatory damages.

Judge John E. Munter in August trimmed the $75 million punitive damage award against Dow to $5.44 million and pared a $100 million penalty against Vulcan Materials Co. to $7.25 million. The companies have appealed.

In a news release, Vulcan said it intends to seek reimbursement for its legal and settlement costs from its insurers.