A new lawsuit claims that Monsanto knowingly contaminated Oakland’s storm water and the San Francisco Bay with a highly toxic chemical for decades.
Oakland city wants the agrochemical giant to pay for the environmental cleanup.
The Oakland city attorney said that the chemical giant ‘chose profits over people, and American cities and citizens are still suffering the consequences.’
The suit filed on Tuesday in the U.S District Court in San Francisco seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the continuing presence in Oakland runoff of polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, synthetic organic chemicals produced by Monsanto
The suit accuses Monsanto of knowing about the dangers of the PCB toxins even before the Environmental Protection Agency banned them in 1979.
The State Water Resources Control Board determined that the presence of highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in Oakland’s storm water threatens the San Francisco Bay’s ecosystem and interferes with the bay’s use and enjoyment by Californians, the city said in a statement.
PCBs were widely used for five decades to insulate electronics and were incorporated into paints, caulks and other building materials until they were banned by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1979. Despite the 36-year prohibition, the chemicals are a common environmental contaminant in water and in the tissues of marine life all the way up the food chain to humans.
“Monsanto knew that PCBs were toxic and could not be contained as they readily escaped into the environment, finding their way into bays, oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, soil and air,” the statement read. “Although evidence confirms that Monsanto recognized that PCBs were becoming ‘a global contaminant’, well before the 1979 ban, it concealed this information and increased production of these profitable compounds.”
Oakland and Alameda County could be forced to spend $1 billion to remove PCBs from storm water flowing into San Francisco Bay, the city said. The lawsuit is asking Monsanto to bear the costs of cleaning up the contamination.
“The company that is responsible for this vast contamination should bear the burden of cleaning up our environment, not the taxpayers of Oakland and California,” City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said in a statement.
“Monsanto knew that its products posed a significant threat to human and environmental health around the world,” she added. “However, the company chose profits over protecting people, and American cities and citizens are still suffering the consequences.”
Other cities in California have filed similar lawsuits against Monsanto, as has Spokane, Washington.