A former schoolteacher is suing Weyerhaeuser Co. over a 1994 chlorine release, saying it permanently damaged her voice.
Marlene Bennett’s lawsuit says the injury forced her into early retirement, with reduced income and benefits.
“I really loved teaching,” Bennett said Thursday. “I taught in the Kelso School District 26 years. I was teaching first grade.
“You need your voice all day. My voice just wouldn’t hold up,” she said, her voice growing hoarse after just a brief telephone conversation.
Bennett, 59, took early retirement in January 1995. She had lived near the Weyerhaeuser plant at the time of the chlorine incident, but moved several miles away to north Longview early last year.
At issue was the release of about 4,200 pounds of chlorine vapor on July 27, 1994. The vapor escaped through an open valve at the Weyerhaeuser bleaching plant and wafted over a broad part of the Longview-Kelso area.
Under a negotiated settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, Weyerhaeuser agreed to pay $178,000 in fines and emergency-response upgrades related to the leak.
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