Seattle joins the growing list of cities in the American West that has slapped Monsanto with a PCB lawsuit. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, is a highly toxic chemical that the company manufactured decades ago.
The complaint, filed on Monday with the U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleges that Monsanto knew that the chemicals were polluting the environment and causing harm to people and wildlife, as Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes explained to The Seattle Times.
“When the profit motive overtakes concern for the environment, this is the kind of disaster that happens,” Holmes added. “I’m proud to hold Monsanto accountable.”
According to Seattlepi.com, the suit concerns PCB contamination in 20,000 acres that drain into the lower Duwamish, which is a federal Superfund site (meaning it’s so polluted that that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has to help with cleanup). It also concerns areas that drain to the East Waterway adjacent to Harbor Island, also a federal Superfund site.
The lawsuit also states:
PCBs were detected in 75 percent of more than 1,000 samples collected from catch basins and drainage lines in the Lower Duwamish drainage area. In the East Waterway drainage areas, PCBs were detected in 82 percent of samples collected with “in-line grabs” of sediment in drainage pipes and PCBs were detected in 73 percent of samples collected from catch basins in street right-of-ways.
The city is likely seeking millions of dollars from Monsanto to pay for the cleanup. “The ultimate cost depends on how far you go in cleanup,” Holmes told Seattlepi.com, adding that it would be “impossible” clean up all the PCBs found mainly in the city’s industrial zone.
Under a consent decree issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Washington Department of Ecology, Seattle already needs to spend at least $27 million to build a treatment plant to remove pollutants, including PCBs, from stormwater.
However, as The Seattle Times pointed out, the plant will only cover a mere 1.25 percent of the 20,000 acres that drain to the Lower Duwamish.
Monsanto has faced a spate of PCB contamination lawsuits over the decades and several this year alone. In 2015, the cities of Spokane, San Diego, San Jose and Oakland also sued the company over PCB-contaminated sites.