The man in charge of Continental Carbon was hammered by attorneys in a video tape deposition Thursday.
Kim K.T. Pan is the president of the carbon black manufacturing company based in Houston. The company is owned by China Synthetic Rubber Corporation out of Taiwan. Carbon black is used to make tires.
Jurors in the Action Marine vs. Continental Carbon trial saw Pan’s deposition play out on a large screen in an Opelika Federal Courtroom.
Columbus homeowner Owen Ditchfield, Action Marine owner John Thape, and the City of Columbus are suing Continental Carbon. They claim the company allowed sticky carbon black dust to escape from its Phenix City plant which polluted and damaged their property.
He admitted to problems with the plant’s pollution control devices since 1999, when the plant doubled its production from 100 million tons to 200 million tons.
When prosecuting attorneys asked various questions about carbon black fallout, Pan asked for definitions of words. Specifically, he asked the attorneys what they meant by “confess,” “admit,” and “fairness”.
When questioned about the plant scaling back production by 50 percent the day the prosecution’s team visited, Pan said he denied making the order. He also said it was not common practice to cut back production like that.
Two of the plaintiffs, the City of Columbus and Ditchfield, want Continental Carbon to pay for cleaning up the black spot damage they claim is carbon black. Thursday, James Romine, an expert witness for the prosecution, had calculated remediation costs. Romine testified cleaning up Ditchfield’s properties and the affected city properties such as Golden Park, Memorial Stadium, the Civic Center, and Rigdon Park would cost about $390,420.
Continental Carbon’s attorneys argued all the locations may not have been affected by carbon black and the company should not have to pay for remediation costs.
Defense Attorney Tommy Wells also pinpointed the cost to clean the Civic Center’s roof. Romine said it would cost more than $174,000. Wells pointed out the city’s cleaned it before for as low as $4,455.
There were a few more people in the courtroom Thursday watching the proceedings. For the past week, only a few of Ditchfield’s neighbors have come to court on a daily basis. Thursday, two or three Continental Carbon employees sat in on some of the trial.
The trial could extend well into the middle of next week.