A Johnston County jury last week awarded three Mill Creek families $73 million in damages for 10 million gallons of sewage that was pumped into creeks and streams on their properties in October 2006. In addition to recreational and aesthetic uses, the families relied upon the creeks and streams for their household water supply.
The case was filed in 2007 on behalf of the Sikes, Converse and Shirley-Robbins families.
The jury assessed a $60 million punitive damage award against Mehlburger Brawley, Inc., an Oklahoma engineering firm, and B3, Inc., an Arkansas construction and excavation company, for wrongful conduct as it related to the sewage discharge.
All three families receiving the award were happy with the outcome and glad they could get "some peace" in the matter.
"My grandparents worked for 25 years to put a down payment on this property," said John Sikes, speaking on behalf of his family. "That was in 1943, and they spent 40 years paying it off. It was their livelihood, legacy and family gathering place. Until 2006, five generations had enjoyed countless hours of family activities here. Since that time, due to the actions of MBI and B3, this legacy has been damaged. My father tried to stop them, and now it's come to me to finish what he started. We endured for seven long years.
"Now, thanks to the jury's decision, we have received the justice we sought, and we honor what meant so much to my father and all members of the Sikes' family," he said.
For Ava Converse, the judgment meant peace for her family.
"Our dad started buying this property on Mill Creek in 1961. The farm represents one of our most significant memoris of him. The jury's decision sent a clear message that what B3 and MBI did was disrespectful as well as wrong. The verdict gives us some peace as it relates to our dad's legacy," Converse said.
While the award cannot restore the property to its pre-2006 status, it provided closure for the Shirley-Robbins family.
"Our lives were forever changed by the sewage dump," Shannon Shirley said. "The creek is our household water source, and we need it to survive. We are thankful that the system worked and that the jury and judge saw the case for what it was."