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AG Racine announces Monsanto will pay $52 million to District of Columbia over toxic PCB

Christian Fernsby ▼ | July 20, 2020
Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced that Monsanto will pay $52 million to resolve a lawsuit over the company’s production, promotion, and sale of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that damaged the District’s natural resources and put the health of residents at risk.
Karl A. Racine
Attorney General   Karl A. Racine
The settlement with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) resolves a May 2020 lawsuit which alleged that Monsanto sold PCBs for nearly 50 years, despite knowing that these chemicals would pollute waterways, kill wildlife, and cause significant health problems in humans, including cancer and liver damage.

Topics: Monsanto

There are at least 36 bodies of water in the District with high levels of PCB contamination, including the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. OAG’s lawsuit sought to force Monsanto—which manufactured over 99 percent of the PCBs ever used in the U.S.—to pay for clean-up of PCB contamination in the District. This settlement, secured just two months after the lawsuit was filed, is OAG’s largest recovery to date in an environmental action.

Monsanto, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bayer AG, is an agricultural products company based in St. Louis, Missouri. Two companies that were formerly part of Monsanto—Solutia (which took over Monsanto’s chemical business) and Pharmacia (which took over Monsanto’s pharmaceutical business) share legal responsibility for the chemicals the old Monsanto company produced, including PCBs.

PCBs are toxic chemicals that harm the environment and wildlife and cause serious health problems in humans. PCBs were widely used in products like paint, sealant, caulking, and electrical appliances before they were banned in the U.S. in 1979. PCBs from those products entered the air, water, and soil—and because they do not break down, they are still in the environment today.

OAG filed suit against Monsanto in May 2020 alleging it knowingly sold toxic products, misled consumers and regulators to maximize profits, and damaged the District’s natural resources.

Bodies of water in the District with high levels of PCB contamination include the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, the Tidal Basin, the C and O Canal, and dozens of small streams and creeks. The lawsuit sought to recover damages, civil penalties, and costs of cleaning up PCB contamination in the District.

The settlement resolves OAG’s lawsuit and requires Monsanto to pay $52 million to the District. The majority of these funds will be dedicated to environmental clean-up of District waterways. A portion will be dedicated to supporting OAG’s litigation, and a portion will go to the District’s general fund.