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Fredericks Finger Lakes Farm

Road Salt Contamination from NYS Thruway Ruled A Trespass

The New York Court of Claims recently held that farmers impacted by surface and groundwater contaminated with road salt originating on the NYS Thruway Authority’s property are entitled to damages.

The farmers, John and Jan Fredericks, own a dairy farm next to the NYS Thruway. After their cows became inexplicably ill and died at an unnatural rate, the Fredericks began searching for answers. They found significant sodium and chloride in their well water, at levels that were consistent with road salt contamination. Their well was only about 60 feet from the NYS Thruway. They were forced to immediately connect to public water.

In December 2020, Hon. Renee Forgensi-Minarik ruled in Frederick v. New York State Thruway Authority, Claim No. 121048, that the Fredericks had proved a case of trespass constituting an “unlawful invasion of their land, which produced the immediate consequence of elevated levels of sodium and chloride in Claimants’ well water.” This decision followed a five-day trial which included testimony of multiple experts, including Dr. Paul Richards of Liddell Hydrogeology PLLC, who testified at length on the geology and the flow of water at the Fredericks’ property.

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Alan Knauf will be presenting his annual case law update at the NYSBA EELS Oil Spill Forum on May 7, 2024.

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