House explosion

A fireplace and a few columns of brick are all remain of Dan Kadavy's home on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.

A Firth couple whose home exploded in 2013 just days before Christmas have sued a contractor hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remediate pollution problems at a nearby Atlas missile silo site.

Dan and Anne Kadavy originally filed the case against Gilbane Federal in Gage County District Court, but last week it was transferred to U.S. District Court in Lincoln.

In the suit, they say they learned that the Environmental Protection Agency discovered in 2005 that trichloroethylene, or TCE, which was used to clean missile fuel lines and causes health problems, previously had been dumped on land near their home between Firth and Cortland and was contaminating groundwater in the area.

It led to a cleanup plan by the Army Corps of Engineers that involves drilling more than 40 wells, then injecting emulsified vegetable oil into the ground as a carbon source to boost bacteria that feed on TCE.

They say Gilbane Federal did an injection at the well closest to the Kadavys' home on Dec. 11, 2013, a week before a massive explosion lifted the house and scattered debris for more than 150 feet.

Firefighters from Firth, Cortland and Adams had the fire under control within an hour and no one was hurt, but the home was a total loss.

They originally suspected a propane leak, but now suspect methane, a product of the TCE remediation project.

The Kadavys are suing the California company for negligence, private nuisance, trespassing and strict liability. They are represented by Omaha attorney David Domina.

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Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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