Quantcast

Seattle Sues Monsanto Over PCB Contamination, Becomes 6th City to Do So

Health + Wellness

Seattle joins the growing list of cities in the American West that has slapped Monsanto with a PCB lawsuit. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, is a highly toxic chemical that the company manufactured decades ago.

The City of Seattle aims to hold Monsanto responsible for costs of PCBs contamination in its waterways and and drainage infrastructure. Photo credit:
Flickr

The complaint, filed on Monday with the U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleges that Monsanto knew that the chemicals were polluting the environment and causing harm to people and wildlife, as Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes explained to The Seattle Times.

“When the profit motive overtakes concern for the environment, this is the kind of disaster that happens,” Holmes added. “I’m proud to hold Monsanto accountable.”

According to Seattlepi.com, the suit concerns PCB contamination in 20,000 acres that drain into the lower Duwamish, which is a federal Superfund site (meaning it's so polluted that that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has to help with cleanup). It also concerns areas that drain to the East Waterway adjacent to Harbor Island, also a federal Superfund site.

The lawsuit also states:

PCBs were detected in 75 percent of more than 1,000 samples collected from catch basins and drainage lines in the Lower Duwamish drainage area. In the East Waterway drainage areas, PCBs were detected in 82 percent of samples collected with “in-line grabs” of sediment in drainage pipes and PCBs were detected in 73 percent of samples collected from catch basins in street right-of-ways.

The city is likely seeking millions of dollars from Monsanto to pay for the cleanup. "The ultimate cost depends on how far you go in cleanup," Holmes told Seattlepi.com, adding that it would be "impossible" clean up all the PCBs found mainly in the city's industrial zone.

Under a consent decree issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Washington Department of Ecology, Seattle already needs to spend at least $27 million to build a treatment plant to remove pollutants, including PCBs, from stormwater.

However, as The Seattle Times pointed out, the plant will only cover a mere 1.25 percent of the 20,000 acres that drain to the Lower Duwamish.

Monsanto has faced a spate of PCB contamination lawsuits over the decades and several this year alone. In 2015, the cities of Spokane, San Diego, San Jose and Oakland also sued the company over PCB-contaminated sites.

Although PCBs have been banned for decades, the toxic compound is still detected in the environment today. This warning sign was displayed near New York’s Hudson River in 2013. Photo credit: NOAA

Before switching to agribusiness, Monsanto was the primary manufacturer of PCBs in the U.S. from 1935 to 1979. PCBs, which were used to insulate electronics, was banned in 1979 by the U.S. EPA over human health and environmental concerns.

The chemical has been detected in waterways around the world, and can cause damage to aquatic life, wildlife as well as human health. PCBs have been known to negatively effect the human immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems, and cause cancer.

In an email to KUOW/EarthFix, Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said the company is reviewing the lawsuit and its allegations but added that “Monsanto is not responsible for the costs alleged in this matter.”

“PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into useful products," she wrote. "If improper disposal or other improper uses allowed for necessary clean up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for those costs.”

It has been reported that Monsanto allegedly knew that PCBs were toxic well before the 1979 ban but continued production of the profitable compound anyway. Think Progress reported:

In a 1970 internal memo, agrochemical giant Monsanto alerted its development committee to a problem: Polychlorinated Biphenyls—known as PCBs—had been shown to be a highly toxic pollutant.

PCBs—sold under the common name Aroclor—were also huge business, raking in some $10 million in profits. Not wanting to lose all of these profits, Monsanto decided to continue its production of Aroclor while alerting its customers to its potentially adverse effects. Monsanto got out of the PCB business altogether in 1977—two years before the chemicals were banned by the EPA—but just because the company no longer produces the toxic substances doesn’t mean it can forget about them completely.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE 

Matt Damon Slams Michigan Governor Over Flint Water Crisis: ‘At the Very Least He Should Resign!’

Monsanto Files Lawsuit to Stop California From Listing Glyphosate as Known Carcinogen

There Will Be More Plastic Than Fish in the Ocean by 2050

Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Roundup Ready Alfalfa Has Gone Wild

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Beekeeper Jeff Anderson works with members of his family in this photo from 2014. He once employed all of his adult children but can no longer afford to do so. CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.

Read More Show Less

tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rachel Licker

As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which aren't.

Read More Show Less
Maximum heat indices expected in the continental U.S. on Saturday July 20. NOAA WPC

A dangerous heat wave is expected to boil much of the Central and Eastern U.S. beginning Wednesday, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who was appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975, was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on May 29, 2012. MANDEL NGAN / AFP / GettyImages

John Paul Stevens, the retired Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion granting environmental agencies the power to regulate greenhouse gases, died Tuesday at the age of 99. His decision gave the U.S. government important legal tools for fighting the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signs the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule on June 19, replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that would have reduced coal-fired plant carbon emissions. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency / Twitter

By Elliott Negin

On July 8, President Trump hosted a White House event to unabashedly tout his truly abysmal environmental record. The following day, coincidentally, marked the one-year anniversary of Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), first as acting administrator and then as administrator after the Senate confirmed him in late February.

Read More Show Less
A timber sale in the Kaibab National Forest. Dyan Bone / Forest Service / Southwestern Region / Kaibab National Forest

By Tara Lohan

If you're a lover of wilderness, wildlife, the American West and the public lands on which they all depend, then journalist Christopher Ketcham's new book is required — if depressing — reading.

Read More Show Less