The city of Spokane has filed a lawsuit against the international
agrochemical giant Monsanto, alleging that the company sold chemicals
for decades that it knew were a danger to human and
The lawsuit, which does not specifically
state what the city is seeking in monetary damages, also alleges that
Monsanto is responsible for the high levels of polychlorinated
biphenyls, or PCBs, in the Spokane River.
Marlene Feist, the
city’s utilities spokeswoman, called the suit “long-term litigation,”
and noted that the city will spend $300 million to keep PCBs and other
pollutants from entering the river in coming years.
entered the river by various means, including through commercial and
industrial products such as paint, hydraulic fluids, sealants, inks
Charla Lord, a spokeswoman with Monsanto, said in a
statement that the company is “reviewing the lawsuit and its
allegations. However, Monsanto is not responsible for the costs alleged
in this matter.”
The Spokane River has elevated levels of PCBs,
which have been found in its water, sediments, fish and wildlife. The
PCBs enter the river, in part, through the city’s water and stormwater
discharges. It is currently trying to meet a 2017 federal deadline to
stop pollution from entering the river. It has adopted a Integrated
Clean Water Plan, and is adding more levels of treatment at its water
treatment plant, efforts that convinced the law firms to represent
Spokane, Feist said.
Though the city does not state an amount of
money its seeking, the suit said it seeks “compensatory damages,”
lawyer’s fees, interest and any other relief the court
The lawsuit names two companies that spun off
from the corporation in the 1990s, and joins other municipalities
seeking damages from the company, including San Diego, San Jose and
The outside law firms representing the city – Baron and Budd, and Gomez Trial Attorneys – have experience with PCB litigation.
and Budd, a national law firm with environmental litigation experience,
currently offers free PCB testing to any school built between 1950 and
1980. According to the firm, it specializes in lawsuits designed to help
public entities recover the cost of remediation. The company has worked
with people affected by asbestos.
Scott Summy, the lead attorney
on the Spokane case, has been the force behind much of this litigation,
and regularly represents public water providers whose water is
contaminated by chemicals. He was also involved in lawsuits arising out
of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
Along with Baron and Budd, the Gomez firm is part of San Jose’s case against Monsanto.
was the sole producer of PCBs between 1935 and 1979, and the company
commonly sold the chemical under the name of Aroclor nationally.
According to the suit, the company knew PCBs were toxic while it still
produced and marketed the product, but concealed these facts until
Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act, which banned most PCBS
beginning Jan. 1, 1979.