back to article Is this why Facebook is such a toxic dump? HP, HPE sued for 'leaking chems' into office site

Stanford University is suing the descendants of Hewlett-Packard and Agilent for allegedly contaminating a property in Palo Alto, California, with toxic chemicals. The Silicon Valley uni has demanding the IT giants pick up its hazmat cleaning bill to scrub the site of industrial solvents and other pollutants. The property, …

  1. Tim99 Silver badge

    A small irony

    HP and then Agilent were/are probably the largest manufacturer of gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers used to analyse sites for PCB and TCE contamination. PCBs were used mainly for dielectric fluids for large transformers and capacitors as well as plasticisers, flame retardants, coatings, etc., which might be where they came from.

    One use for PCBs was as the pumping fluid for high vacuum diffusion pumps (as used in mass spectrometers). Some modern instruments still use diffusion pumps, but the fluids are normally silicone or polyphenyl ether oils - Although most of these systems now use turbo pumps,

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A small irony

      A modern company would have added a clause to the user agreement that results from the instrument can't be used against the manufacturer

    2. I3N
      Happy

      Re: A small irony

      Thanks ... been to local University's auctions ... many old diffusion pumps ... adding PCBs to contamination watch list ...

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: A small irony

        @I3N

        Really old ones used mercury, PCBs were a later "safe" alternative.

  2. jake Silver badge

    What the fuck did Stanford expect?

    Everybody who lived in Palo Alto in that era knew that ALL of the manufacturing that happened in West Palo Alto, AKA "Stanford Research Park" (between California (Page Mill) and Arastradero) polluted the place. The rules & regulations BACK THEN allowed it. Stanford suing at this stage is silly ... They knew about the remediation issues long before they broke ground. Gut feeling is Stanford is fishing, hoping it'll be settled out of court with a largish payout.

    If it were anybody but Stanford, building wouldn't have been allowed until AFTER the remediation ...

    (I'm a Palo Alto native, Stanford alum in good(?) standing, and former HP employee.)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get sued if you try and recycle

    Didn't I just read an article about someone trying to deal with the "e-waste" issue getting sued?

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/21/e_waste_lundgren_windows_dell/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Get sued if you try and recycle

      It's disingenuous (and smacks of clickbaitish twisting of the facts to make an attention-grabbing point) to present that story as if the guy was being sued for "trying to deal with [the] 'e-waste'" itself.

      No, he didn't get in trouble for recycling the computers. He got into trouble for duplicating Windows restore/reinstallation discs, and whatever the rights and wrongs of that (#), it's an entirely different issue.

      (#) Going by what was written, I'm strongly inclined to take his side rather than Microsoft's and the prosecutors'- it seems clear the court didn't take sufficient consideration of the fact the discs he'd copied were restore discs that didn't offer the users anything they couldn't have done by themselves or weren't legally entitled to. That, however, is not the point under discussion.

  4. Dwarf Silver badge

    I wonder

    Where did they bury what they dug up ?

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: I wonder

      According to the missus, Brian Aldridge’s land (for Archers fans)

  5. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    If it had been any other California school...

    ...I'd say go fsck yourself... Clean up the rad waste legacy left behind by your nuclear weapons labs... and then maybe we talk about a little PCBs in your dirt.

    Stanford is a weird case though. In the 70's they supposedly eschewed profiting off of classified defense research. But then in the 90's they had to pay back US Navy for defrauding the Office of Naval Research throughout the 80's. Something doesn't compute?

  6. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

    Whenever I hear about PCB-pollution...

    ... I think of an office building in Binghamton, NY.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_Plaza,_Binghamton

    They had a transformer fire in the basement in Feb 1981, and the entire interior of the building was contaminated. The building was closed during multiple attempts to clean up the mess and finally opened in October 1994, albeit with some remaining doubt about whether it was really clean enough to let people work there.

    Apparently cleaning up PCB contamination is really hard.

    1. Patched Out

      Re: Whenever I hear about PCB-pollution...

      That is correct. I lived in the area at that time. Governor Carey offered to drink a glass of PCBs to show how safe it was. If I recall correctly, he was no longer Governor after the next election.

      http://www.nytimes.com/1981/03/05/nyregion/carey-would-sip-a-glass-of-pcb-s.html

  7. Instinct46

    What's with the title

    Why put Facebook in the title if it has nothing to do with them? yes they used the building for a year or two, but still. Did you think less people would read the article if it has "Is this why HP is just a toxic place to work?".

    I don't mind a jokes or someone taking the p**s when it relates to the article, but when your just dumping another company in the article name your, just asking for people who have half the read the article jumping to conclusions.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Jon 37

      Re: It was what it was

      Stanford didn't buy it. They owned the land and leased it to HP, and expected it back in reusable condition. It was uncontaminated and useful building land when they lent it, and contaminated when they got it back.

      Since the lease was so long, there was a long delay between HP contaminating it and Stanford discovering that, and HP have split up in the meantime. So the right thing to do is to sue all the major bits of HP and let them argue in court about which bit is liable.

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if the question of "which bit of HP" was settled by all the bits of HP agreeing either to pick one or to share the cost among them. That way, for the rest of the court case all the remaining bits of HP can present a unified front against Stanford.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But what about Theranos ?

    I worked on this site , known in HP as building 17, for a couple of years at the start of the nineties. Scientific Instruments Division became part of Agilent when the split happened. I believe that after Agilent moved out, the site was taken over by Theranos, of testing scandal fame. Why do Stanford assume that Theranos bore no responsibility? Perhaps they don't have enough dosh to make them worth suing.

  10. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    When you realize

    that most "higher education" is actually becoming a Real Estate company, you tend not to feel sorry for them. Land granted by donors or State to further education, being leased and rented to larger companies or turned into rental or condo properties. No classrooms there,

  11. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    What would you have them do?

    They're given land with conditions that make it difficult to sell but they have no immediate use for it. Of course they're going to rent it out. The alternative is to spend millions that could be better used elsewhere to build classrooms (or whatever) where classrooms shouldn't be. That's not sound management in anyone's book.

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