American Airlines: Request for Criminal Probe Is a “Publicity Stunt”

On Thursday, employees asked D.A. Seth Williams to launch an investigation into what they call "poisoned water."


This photo, an exhibit in the lawsuit by American Airline employees, allegedly shows a worker filling a Deer Park water jug with that chemical. | Photo courtesy of Brian Mildenberg

On Thursday afternoon, dozens of workers from Philadelphia International Airport and their attorney Brian Mildenberg turned up at the office of District Attorney Seth Williams to ask for a criminal investigation into American Airlines for allegedly refilling Deer Park water jugs with toxic chemicals and then eventually sending them back to Deer Park to be filled again with water. Well, now American Airlines is referring to it as a publicity stunt.

“Mr. Mildenberg has brought several lawsuits against the company over the years that we found to be frivolous and that were ultimately dismissed,” American Airlines spokesperson Victoria Lupica told Philly Mag in a written statement. “It is unfortunate that he is attempting to leverage the spotlight brought by the Democratic National Convention to raise his own profile. When the District Attorney and the judicial system are focused on the safety of residents and visitors this week, Mr. Mildenberg’s publicity stunts can only serve as an unwelcome distraction.”

Reached in his car on Friday morning, Mildenberg scoffed at the airline’s comments.

“That is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard coming from the company that filled water jugs with poison and then returned them to Deer Park for public consumption,” he told us. “And why are they bringing up the DNC? That is irrelevant. They’re lying to once again try to cover up their actions. American Airlines is a bully trying to point the finger away from its own wrongful actions.”

Mildenberg adds that his complaints against the airline have led to sanctions by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and sent us documents to support that claim. In the present case, he represents dozens of American Airlines employees at Philadelphia International Airport in a civil lawsuit.

In their request to Williams’ office, the employees asked that charges including aggravated assault be brought against the airline and suggested that charges of criminal homicide and voluntary manslaughter should be levied if any of the affected employees die of cancer. Several have had cancer diagnoses, and the suit seeks to connect their cancer with the chemicals at the airport. Williams has yet to respond to the petition.

Meanwhile, Deer Park has sent Philly Mag a statement in an effort to quell public fears that there might be something wrong with their water jugs.

Here is that statement in full:

Delivering quality products to Deer Park’s consumers is our number one priority, and we have the highest quality standards and controls including inspection, cleaning and testing. Consumers can be completely confident in the safety of Deer Park products.

Each and every bottle that comes into our plant is inspected multiple times for anything unusual. In the extremely rare case anything unacceptable is found, the bottle is immediately rejected and destroyed. Over the past five years, hundreds, if not thousands of bottles have been returned to our plant from this customer for cleaning and re-filling with water, and to date, we have found nothing unusual.

The lawsuit against American Airlines contends that employees were told to fill the empty Deer Park jugs with a toxic cleaning agent for use in airplane toilets. The above photo—an exhibit in the lawsuit—allegedly shows a worker filling a Deer Park water jug with that chemical.

In 2015, American Airlines indicated that the airline had suspended its water delivery service pending an investigation.

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