Lawsuit holds Monsanto accountable for pollutants flowing into the Spokane River

DALLAS (Aug. 3, 2015) – The City of Spokane, WA, today took an important step in improving the vitality and health of the Spokane River. Spokane filed a lawsuit to hold Monsanto Company responsible for PCB contamination that finds its way into the City’s stormwater that flows into the Spokane River. According to a recent federal case, Spokane will become subject to a PCB TMDL, or Total Maximum Daily Load, which is a maximum amount of pollutant that a body of water such as the Spokane River can receive while still meeting water quality standards.

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 Washington State Department of Ecology has determined that taking steps to reduce PCBs immediately is an effective method for achieving desired water quality goals, and such methods require identifying and reducing PCBs at their sources in the watershed.

Attorney Scott Summy, a shareholder at Baron & Budd, P.C., one of two firms representing Spokane 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 and wastewater effluent flowing into the Spokane River, costs that should not be borne by the City or by its taxpayers but by the company that knew its product would cause this contamination.” Two other lawsuits were recently filed by the same law firms on behalf of the City of San Diego and the City of San Jose.

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 harmed by corporate America.