Plumber blames diesel fuel tank leak for kidney failure

By Jim Boyle | Aug 11, 2014

A 32-year-old Lehigh County man says a heavy exposure to diesel fuel has caused him to

A 32-year-old Lehigh County man says a heavy exposure to diesel fuel has caused him to

suffer acute renal failure and needs a kidney transplant to survive, according to a federal suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Jason Marino, of Slatington, Pa., seeks more than $150,000 in damages for several counts of negligence and violations of the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act against Pilot Travel Centers, LLC, and Sovereign Consulting.

According to the complaint, in February 2014 the Robbinsville, N.J.-based Sovereign Consulting contracted Marino, a plumber employed by Remco, Inc., to help a ruptured waterline on the grounds of the Flying J Travel Plaza 710 in New Milford, Pa., a rest area owned and operated by Pilot.

The suit says that between October 2003 and November 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited the Flying J Travel Center multiple times for failure to keep the underground fuel tanks properly maintained.

In November 2013, Pilot learned that one of the underground diesel tanks was leaking, earning another citation in the process. In late 2013 or early 2014, Pilot hired Sovereign to conduct underground drilling to test for the leaks. During the investigation, one of the drills hit a water line, forcing Sovereign to call in Marino, the suit says.

According to the complaint, Marino could not access the area for repairs until the frozen ground softened up. When he started excavating in March 2014, the pit that Marino dug to access the water line began to fill with a dark, thick liquid. Even when he pumped out the fluid, it seeped back into the pit, rising as high as Marino's knees and midsection.

Despite the leak of the then-unknown substance, Marino continued working to repair the water pipe for the next five days, the claim says. At certain points, he would need to lower to his knees, with the liquid up to his chest.

According to the complaint, Marino later learned that the liquid was, in fact, the leaking diesel fuel from Pilot's tank. The claim says that prolonged exposure to diesel fuel can absorb through the skin and infect the bloodstream, causing renal failure. Marino says that at no point did any representative from Pilot warn him of the potential leak or advise him to use protective gear while working on the project.

Marino finished the job in April, and in May went to St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network with symptoms of nausea, dizziness and excessive tiredness. The doctors came back with a diagnosis of severe glomerulosclerosis, which is scarring of the small vessels of the kidneys that filter urine from the blood. Marino and his wife were advised that the condition is non-reversible and he would need a transplant to survive.

According to the suit, Marino's father, Thomas, offered to donate a kidney, but he was not an exact match for Jason. However, Thomas donated the kidney to the donor bank, in order for his son to receive a new kidney at an accelerated rate. As a result of the surgery, Thomas Marino faces his own recovery challenges and has sued both companies for damages, the suit says

The plaintiffs are represented by Leonard Villari and Thomas Lynam of Villari, Lentz & Lynam in Philadelphia.

The federal case ID number is 5:14-cv-04672-JLS.

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