Florida Senate - 2019                              (NP)    SB 52
       By Senator Gibson
       6-00139-19                                              201952__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act for the relief of former employees of Fairfax
    3         Street Wood Treaters; directing the Department of
    4         Health to collaborate with the National Institute for
    5         Occupational Safety and Health to develop specified
    6         data for certain purposes; providing an appropriation
    7         to compensate the former employees for injuries and
    8         damages sustained as result of the negligence of the
    9         Department of Environmental Protection, the Department
   10         of Financial Services, and the Department of Health;
   11         providing a limitation on the payment of attorney
   12         fees; providing an effective date.
   14         WHEREAS, Wood Treaters, Inc., later known as Wood Treaters,
   15  LLC, was established as a Florida corporation on May 12, 1980,
   16  and operated a wood treating facility from 1980 to 2010 at a
   17  12.5-acre industrial complex known as Fairfax Street Wood
   18  Treaters, located at 2610 Fairfax Street in Jacksonville, and
   19         WHEREAS, Wood Treaters, LLC’s operations were inherently
   20  dangerous to employees because the company used a wood treating
   21  preservative called chromated copper arsenate, which includes a
   22  concentrated inorganic form of arsenic, to pressure treat
   23  utility poles, pilings, heavy timber items, and plywood lumber
   24  products, and
   25         WHEREAS, there is an extensive body of scientific evidence
   26  documenting the toxicity of arsenic exposure when arsenic is
   27  used to treat wood, and
   28         WHEREAS, employees at the Fairfax Street Wood Treaters site
   29  were injured by excessive, persistent, and prolonged exposure to
   30  toxic levels of arsenic while performing their work duties, and
   31         WHEREAS, a catastrophic failure of the State of Florida to
   32  enforce measures designed to protect employees from toxic
   33  substances in the workplace resulted in the employees’ exposure
   34  to arsenic, and
   35         WHEREAS, over the course of its operating life, Wood
   36  Treaters, LLC treated thousands of wood products, employed
   37  hundreds of individuals at the Fairfax Street Wood Treaters
   38  location, and was known to government regulators due to its
   39  reckless and grossly negligent use and mismanagement of arsenic,
   40  and
   41         WHEREAS, the Department of Environmental Protection, the
   42  Department of Financial Services, and the Department of Health
   43  ignored the hazardous conditions that employees at the Fairfax
   44  Street Wood Treaters site were working in, which were
   45  exacerbated by employees receiving no training, protective gear,
   46  or warnings and no guidance alerting them to the risks posed to
   47  their health and safety by exposure to arsenic, and
   48         WHEREAS, the State of Florida recognizes an equitable
   49  obligation to redress the injuries and damages employees
   50  sustained from exposures to arsenic as a result of the
   51  catastrophic failure of the Department of Environmental
   52  Protection, the Department of Financial Services, and the
   53  Department of Health to exercise their duties, NOW, THEREFORE,
   55  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   57         Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are
   58  found and declared to be true.
   59         Section 2. The Department of Health is directed to
   60  collaborate with the National Institute for Occupational Safety
   61  and Health to develop accurate and reliable data on the exposure
   62  levels and the duration and frequency of exposures to arsenic
   63  for all former employees of Wood Treaters, LLC who worked at the
   64  Fairfax Street Wood Treaters site, so as to ascertain the risks
   65  to their health posed by such exposure.
   66         Section 3. The sum of $10 million is appropriated from the
   67  General Revenue Fund to the Office of the Attorney General for
   68  the relief of former employees of Wood Treaters, LLC who
   69  demonstrate personal injuries and damages resulting from
   70  excessive, persistent, and prolonged exposure to arsenic as a
   71  result of the work environment at the Fairfax Street Wood
   72  Treaters site, and who demonstrate that such injuries and
   73  damages were sustained as a result of the failure of state
   74  agencies to exercise their statutory duties to control the
   75  unlawful release of arsenic. The Attorney General shall
   76  compensate each eligible former employee in the amount of
   77  $100,000.
   78         Section 4. The amount awarded under this act is intended to
   79  provide the sole compensation for all present and future claims
   80  arising out of the factual situation described in this act which
   81  resulted in injuries and damages to former employees of Wood
   82  Treaters, LLC. The total amount paid for attorney fees relating
   83  to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the amount awarded
   84  under this act.
   85         Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.