Chemical disaster leads to windfall for nonprofits 20 years laterA railroad tanker chemical spill more than 20 years ago in Superior may mean a windfall for three nonprofit foundations in the area.
By: Mike Simonson/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A railroad tanker chemical spill more than 20 years ago in Superior may mean a windfall for three nonprofit foundations in the area.
In 1992, a railroad tanker spill in the town of Superior caused a huge toxic cloud that forced about 50,000 people to evacuate the Duluth-Superior area. It remains the largest evacuation from a chemical spill in the nation’s history.
From that, a court settlement set up a $500,000 trust fund for people who might have developed medical problems over the next two decades. It’s been 21 years and that trust has more than doubled in size: The Burlington Northern Trust Fund is now worth $1.1 million.
Toby Marcovich was the lead attorney in the case.
“The money that we raised in the settlement of that case was to compensate people in the community who had suffered some harm,” he said. “After they were all fully compensated, the fact that we had money left over … I felt that money belonged in the communities where the damage had been done.”
A special committee has heard claims but no one has proved their cases related to the June 30, 1992, spill. So that leaves the $1.1 million. Marcovich says the court ordered the fund to be split three ways between the Duluth-Superior Community Foundation, the University of Wisconsin-Superior Foundation and the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Foundation.
“Sure, there are all kinds of organizations that fit the bill. But those three entities seemed to be the most community-wide organizations that could benefit the most people,” he said.
Duluth-Superior Community Foundation director Holly Sampson says the nonprofits shouldn’t start spending the money yet. That amount could change. “They may never know, you know?” she said. “We don’t know. We don’t know what will occur between now and July 15, 2014.”
The foundations award grants to other nonprofit groups and help cover student tuition.
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