Monsanto is pushing back against a lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday to hold the company responsible for the local environmental damage caused by the PCBs it used to manufacture.
The City Council authorized the suit on March 16. It is similar to seven other suits filed by West Coast cities represented by the same two private law firms, Gomez Trial Lawyers and Baron & Budd. They all claim Monsanto, the exclusive manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyls from 1935 to 1979, knew the product was hazardous and hid the risks from the public.
PCBs were widely used in electrical and other industrial processes, and have been shown to be highly persistent in the environment and a likely cause of cancer in humans and animals. They have been found in Portland waterways, including the harbor Superfund site that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes was polluted by city sewers, among other sources.
“Although Monsanto knew for decades that PCBs were toxic and knew that they were widely contaminating all natural resources and living organisms, Monsanto concealed these facts and continued producing PCBs until Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), which banned the manufacture and most uses of PCBs as of January 1, 1979,” says the suit, which seeks unspecified compensatory damages, punitive damages, litigation costs and attorney’s fees.
But Scott S. Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president for global strategy, dismisses the suit as a money-making ploy by the two firms.
”This self-serving claim was instigated by trial lawyers in search of a windfall who aggressively shopped their services to Portland government officials. By joining this speculative legal scrum, city officials have signed on to an open ended commitment of Portland taxpayer resources that will drag on for years and, in the end, may only serve to uncover the fact that the city itself is responsible for discharging the PCBs,” says Partridge.