By Tyler Mercer–
The University of Louisville recently filed a lawsuit against CSX Transportation Inc., the company whose railroad tracks once ran across the land that Papa John’s Stadium now sits on.
In 1996, the university of Louisville and the University of Louisville Athletic Association entered into an agreement with CSX in which the parties would be making a real estate trade. In return for land for stadium facilities to be built on, the Commonwealth of Kentucky traded 118 acres of land to CSX. The land that the university and ULAA would be using to build new facilities on was extremely contaminated, however. The suit says, “When the university and the ULAA acquired the CSX Property, it contained more than 1.1 million gallons of diesel fuel in the ground with a thickness exceeding eight feet, asbestos in 20 acres of existing structures, lead contamination greater than 18,000 ppm in one area and PCB contamination exceeding 100 ppm.”
In a statement to the Courier-Journal, U of L spokesperson Mark Hebert said that U of L and CSX have been in negotiations for some time, but the case needed to be moved to mediation. “We just felt we needed to file a lawsuit to get the process rolling,” said Hebert.
In the original agreement, CSX agreed to “bear all expenses” that the university wouldn’t have otherwise had to deal with, were it not for the contamination caused by and related to CSX’s use of the land. If the stadium facilities were not used to cap the site and prevent future users of the facilities from exposure to the contaminates, CSX would have needed over $40,000,000 to clean up the area for sale or use. “The soil at the CSX Property was so contaminated that the university and the ULAA imported soil for the groundbreaking ceremony to avoid digging into contaminated earth,” the suit against CSX also states.
Following the terms of the agreement, CSX’s environmental consultants reviewed bid documents for the site’s construction before and during the construction of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. The university and ULAA sustained costs measuring $1,600,000. These costs were simply for aspects that would have been avoided had the soil not been contaminated. Some of this money was used for very important new implementations such as: hiring an onsite health and safety officer, purchasing of environmental impairment liability insurance and even a methane venting design to alleviate concerns from CSX about the amount of diesel fuel underground that would eventually break down into methane.
Before starting the Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium expansion project, the university and ULAA requested reimbursement, as was required by the agreement, from CSX. CSX denied the request and failed to comply with the agreement. In 2008 the expansion project was started and the university and ULAA have sustained $2,400,000 in costs that would have been avoided had it not been for the amount of contamination to the soil prior to the real estate exchange. CSX has failed to reimburse the university and ULAA, however, and this is the main reason for the current lawsuit between the two parties. In an interview with the Courier-Journal, a spokesperson for CSX said that the company was reviewing the suit.
Photo: Tricia Stern/The Louisville Cardinal