Thursday, August 13, 2015

Spokane sues Monsanto for PCB contamination
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 environmental health.
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.
PCBs have entered the river by various means, including through commercial and industrial products such as paint, hydraulic fluids, sealants, inks and others.
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 deems appropriate.
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 Westport, Massachusetts. 
The outside law firms representing the city – Baron and Budd, and Gomez Trial Attorneys – have experience with PCB litigation.
Baron 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 in 2010.
Along with Baron and Budd, the Gomez firm is part of San Jose’s case against Monsanto.
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.


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