Baltimore sues Monsanto to pay for cleaning chemicals containing PCBs in urban waterways

Baltimore is asking a federal judge to compel the Monsanto agricultural chemicals company to pay for cleaning up the environmental toxins known as PCBs after more than a dozen towns and cities. West Coast states have mainly engaged in similar prosecutions in recent years.

The lawsuit announced on Tuesday does not specify any damages, but city prosecutor Andre Davis has accused the company and its two former divested divisions of causing tens of millions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit indicates that the contamination resulted in the determination of monetary damages at trial.

Polychlorinated biphenyls, a type of synthetic chemical widely used in paints, inks, lubricants and electrical equipment until their prohibition in 1979, have been linked to cancers and damage to the immune and reproductive systems. , nervous and endocrine in humans and in animals.

The city claims that Monsanto had known this damage for a long time and that the chemicals would never break down in the environment, whether in humans or animals, while continuing to use them.

"This lawsuit sends a strong message that the City will hold the companies responsible for cleaning up their toxic damage," Davis said in a statement. "Taxpayers are not responsible for Monsanto's wrongdoing."

The lawsuit also refers to Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC as defendants. These companies were formed from what Monsanto's chemical and pharmaceutical divisions were about two decades ago. As part of their separation from Monsanto, they assumed responsibility for the divisions of the original company Monsanto.

In the complaint, the city states that PCBs are present in waterways, including Inner Harbor, Patapsco River and Roland Lake. They were measured in the sediments of Inner Harbor and in the Lake Roland fauna. It is also believed that they flow into streams through contaminated stormwater systems. Scientists are always looking for ways to get rid of it.

A Bayer spokeswoman, who finalized the $ 66 billion acquisition of Monsanto last year, said Monsanto voluntarily stopped producing PCBs more than 40 years ago and that, when a cleaning is necessary, federal and regional authorities "use an effective system to identify releases if necessary."

"We are still reviewing this complaint, but we believe that the complaint is unfounded and we will defend ourselves aggressively," spokeswoman Charla Lord said in a statement.

A Pfizer spokesperson, owner of Pharmacia, forwarded the questions to Monsanto. Representatives of Solutia, a subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Co., could not be contacted for comment.

More than a dozen similar lawsuits have been filed against corporations in recent years on behalf of West Coast cities and states of Oregon and Washington. Ohio filed another lawsuit last year, but Baltimore's lawyers are the first on the east coast, the lawyers said.

John Fiske, a Baron & Budd lawyer who has worked on a number of cases, including Baltimore, said all were actively litigated and some had trial dates. None has yet been resolved, he said.

In each case, the lawyers claimed to use documents that had been disclosed in previous court proceedings to hold Monsanto responsible for its dumping and exposure to PCBs. In 2003, Monsanto and Solutia agreed to pay $ 700 million to residents of a city in Alabama. In 2016, a St. Louis jury awarded $ 17.5 million to three plaintiffs who claimed that PCBs were the cause of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In other cases, juries rejected arguments that Monsanto is responsible for cases of cancer and other diseases.

The Baltimore suit quotes documents showing that Monsanto was aware of the toxicity of PCBs as early as 1937.

Lawyers Baron & Budd, Grant & Eisenhofer and Gordon, Wolf and Carney work with city lawyers on the case. Companies face the costs of litigation and work on contingencies, which means the city would pay them only if it gets damages, said Susan Sangree, Director of Discrimination Litigation for the US Attorney General's Legal Department. city.

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