In this 2019 photo, containers of Roundup are displayed at a store in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)

In this 2019 photo, containers of Roundup are displayed at a store in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Haven Daley, File)

Monsanto to pay $95M over PCB pollution in Washington state

The chemicals continue to imperil the health of protected salmon and orcas.

By Gene Johnson / Associated Press

SEATTLE — The agrochemical giant Monsanto has agreed to pay Washington state $95 million to settle a lawsuit that blamed it for pervasive pollution from PCBs — toxic industrial chemicals that have accumulated in plants, fish and people around the globe for decades.

The announcement Wednesday from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson came as Bayer, which acquired Monsanto two years ago, said it would pay $820 million to resolve PCB pollution claims and nearly $11 billion to resolve many of the lawsuits over contamination caused by Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in many industrial and commercial applications, including in paint, coolants, sealants and hydraulic fluids. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, produced them from 1935 until 1977, two years before they were banned by Congress.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer in animals as well as effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

Numerous cities, including Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Portland, Oregon, have sued Monsanto over PCB cleanup costs, and in 2016 Ferguson made Washington the first state to sue Monsanto over PCB contamination in rivers, lakes and bays. Others including Oregon and Ohio have since sued.

The cases allege that Monsanto knew for decades about the dangers PCBs posed, but hid those risks as it continued profiting from their sale. The chemicals continue to imperil the health of protected salmon and orcas despite the tens of millions of dollars Washington state has spent to clean up the pollution.

“Washington has been shouldering the health and environmental costs of PCB contamination and cleanup for decades,” Ferguson said in a news release. “This record payment holds Monsanto accountable for the harm they inflicted on our state.”

In 1937, an internal Monsanto memo said testing on animals showed “systemic toxic effects” from prolonged exposure by inhaling PCB fumes or ingestion. In 1969, a company committee on PCBs noted, “There is too much customer/market need and selfishly too much Monsanto profit to go out.”

Nevertheless, Monsanto told officials around the country the contrary. In a letter to New Jersey’s Department of Conservation that year, Monsanto wrote, “Based on available data, manufacturing and use experience, we do not believe PCBs to be seriously toxic.”

In its announcement, Monsanto said it was paying $170 million to resolve lawsuits brought by Washington state, New Mexico and Washington, D.C.

Ferguson said at least $60 million from Washington’s share of that would go to the state’s general fund; $2 million would reimburse the state’s legal costs; $10 million would support the office’s environmental protection work; and $21 million would go to outside counsel retained due to the complexity of the case.

Monsanto said it separately would pay $650 million to a class of local governments with claims of PCB pollution — a settlement that requires federal court approval. Spokane was one of the lead plaintiffs.

“This national resolution will provide more than 2,500 local communities funds for monitoring, mitigation, and remediation efforts to manage PCBs in stormwater, stormwater systems, sediments, and water bodies,” Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said in a news release.

But Dan Nolte, a spokesman for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, said Seattle would opt out of any such class and continue its lawsuit, which is set for trial next year. Any settlement would have to be commensurate with the hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup costs the city has incurred, Nolte said.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Humpback whale hit by Mukilteo ferry, Chip, is presumed dead

The whale, age 3, has not been seen since being struck Monday. His companion was later seen alone.

State: Held up jobless claims to be resolved by end of month

Just under 35,000 people are still waiting for resolution of their claims for unemployment benefits.

Inslee: Trump threats on reopening schools ‘hogwash’

The president said he’d hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring students back in the fall.

Feds scrap plans to reintroduce grizzlies to North Cascades

An environmental group was disappointed by the decision but did not think it was the final word on the bears.

Mary Kay Letourneau, teacher jailed for raping student, dies

After prison, the Seattle teacher married her former student and they raised two daughters together.

Driver who hit protesters on I-5 charged with 3 felonies

Dawit Kelete, 27, is accused of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving.

11-year-old boy in Yakima shot twice in three days

The second time, his 9-year-old sister was also shot. Both survived.

Siberia wildfire smoke reaches Southcentral Alaska, islands

The wildfire smoke also has been reported in western Oregon and Canada.

3rd victim recovered from plane crash over Lake Coeur d’Alene

2 more bodies have been located at the bottom of the lake. 3 others are still missing.

Most Read