San Jose is represented by environmental law firms Baron & Budd and Gomez Trial Attorneys

The City of San Jose today took an important step in preserving the vitality and health of the San Francisco Bay. San Jose filed a lawsuit to hold Monsanto Company responsible for PCB contamination that finds its way into the City’s stormwater that flows into San Francisco Bay. The State Water Resources Control Board recently issued a tentative order affecting San Jose’s stormwater operations and potentially reducing the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) specifically aimed at PCBs. 

PCBs are man-made chemical compounds that were produced by Monsanto Company in the United States from the early 1930s until the late 1970s, when Congress banned the production and use of PCBs based on their danger to human and environmental health. During those five decades, Monsanto’s PCBs were incorporated into a variety of products and applications including electrical equipment, paints, caulks, and other building materials. Monsanto knew then 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 Monsanto recognized internally that PCBs were becoming “a global contaminant,” it concealed this information and increased production of these profitable compounds.

As a result, PCBs are now a common environmental contaminant, found in all natural resources including water bodies and plants as well as in the tissues of all forms of marine life, animals, and humans. Detection of PCBs is a serious matter. The chemicals can destroy fish habitats and are associated with illnesses and cancer in humans.

The State Water Resources Control Board has determined that the presence of PCBs in San Jose stormwater threatens San Francisco Bay as a habitat for fish and wildlife, impairs its use for recreational opportunities, compromises its quality as a tourist and convention destination, and interferes with its use and enjoyment by the people of the State of California. Other California cities are subject to similar stormwater permits with TMDLs related to the reduction of PCBs prior to discharge into the ocean or other waterways. 

Attorney Scott Summy, a shareholder at Baron & Budd, P.C., one of two firms representing San Jose in the lawsuit, believes that Monsanto should shoulder the burden for the vast contamination:  “No company should be allowed to contaminate the environment and rely upon taxpayers to clean up the mess. Monsanto, one of the most sophisticated chemical companies in the world, knew decades ago that PCBs were a significant contamination threat. And yet the company was concerned more with continuing profits than with protecting the public.” 

Summy’s co-counsel, Attorney John Fiske, of Gomez Trial Attorneys, agrees:  “The City will incur significant costs to remove PCBs from stormwater flowing into San Francisco Bay, costs that should not be borne by the State or by taxpayers but by the company that knew its product would cause this contamination.” A similar lawsuit was recently filed by the same law firms on behalf of the City of San Diego.

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, California, specializes in complex litigation on behalf of those injured by corporate America.