January 6, 2015 Berkeley, CA — Today, Baron & Budd, Gomez Trial Attorneys, and the City of Berkeley filed the fifth lawsuit of its kind against Monsanto for PCB contamination of Berkeley’s city storm water and the San Francisco Bay. Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are toxic chemicals that cannot be contained and last for decades. PCBs off-gas from their original application, enter into city storm water through urban run-off, and deposit into San Francisco Bay.
Berkeley joins San Jose, Oakland, and San Diego, California, and Spokane, Washington, all which have filed similar lawsuits against Monsanto. The case was filed in federal district in the Northern District of California, Case No. 5:16-cv-00071.
According to the lawsuit, Monsanto produced PCBs for approximately 50 years until the U.S. Congress banned them because they endanger human and environmental health. Despite the 1979 ban, today PCBs are a common environmental contaminant found in all natural resources including water and plants as well as tissues of marine life, animals and humans. PCBs bioaccumulate in the food chain and are associated with illnesses and cancer in humans.
“Monsanto unleashed an environmental virus that cannot be contained and is now in virtually every living organism in our food chain,” says Baron & Budd attorney Scott Summy, who leads the litigation for each of the 5 cities. “Today, Berkeley is standing up for clean water and holding Monsanto responsible for manufacturing a product it knew would become a global contaminant.”
During the five decades prior to the 1979 ban, Monsanto’s PCBs were incorporated into a wide variety of products and applications including power transformers, electrical equipment, paints, caulks and other building materials. According to the lawsuit, 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. Although documents show Monsanto recognized PCBs were becoming a global contaminant, Monsanto continued to manufacture PCBs and ignored the health risks to humans and the environment.
“PCBs are found in the consumable tissue of fish and other wildlife. Monsanto’s PCBs are perhaps one of the largest public nuisances on the planet,” says attorney John Fiske of Gomez Trial Attorneys. “It’s unfair that California’s taxpayers and cities should be required to clean up Monsanto’s mess.”
California’s Water Quality Control Board has determined that the presence of PCBs in storm water runoff in Bay Area cities, including Berkeley, threatens fish and wildlife in San Francisco Bay. On November 19, 2015, the Regional Water Board issued a new Municipal Stormwater Permit requiring a reduction in the total maximum daily load of PCBs that flow through Bay Area cities’ storm water system into the Bay. Berkeley will incur significant costs to remove PCBs in its storm water if it were to meet the levels set by the new permit. The new permit affects the entire San Francisco Bay region.
About Baron & Budd, P.C. and Gomez Trial Attorneys
Baron & Budd, P.C., based in Dallas, Texas, has represented hundreds of public entities nationwide whose water supplies, properties or natural resources are affected by chemical contaminants. Gomez Trial Attorneys, based in San Diego, represents cities and families in water contamination cases.