Illinois AG Files Environmental Tort Lawsuit Against Monsanto Over PCB Water Contamination

Residents near a former Monsanto facility are not allowed to drink the nearby groundwater due to the high levels of PCB water contamination.

Monsanto faces a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Attorney General over the discharge, dumping and leaking of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) chemicals in the state, which have resulted in widespread water contamination and damage to the environment.

The complaint (PDF) was filed in Cook County Circuit Court, naming Monsanto Co., and its subsidiaries Solutia Inc., and Pharmacia LLC, as the defendants. The case was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last week, after the defendants filed a Notice of Removal (PDF) on September 29.

PCBs are toxic and dangerous chemicals, which are known to persist in the environment, and build up in humans, wildlife and fish. As a result of the toxic effects of PCBs and contamination risks, nearly all uses were banned by the EPA in 1979, but they remain a major problem in the state.

According to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, nearly all PCBs used in the United States were manufactured by Monsanto, and many of those chemicals were manufactured at a Monsanto facility in Sauget, Illinois. For years, the company was aware of the health risks linked to PCBs while claiming the chemicals were not a threat to human health or the environment, the complaint alleges.

As a result the reckless conduct of Monsanto, PCBs and other toxic chemicals, such as dioxins, chlorobenzenes, mercury and phosphorous now contaminate the states creeks, rivers, lakes and beaches and have degraded the state’s wildlife and other natural resources, according to the lawsuit.

“Taxpayers should not be left to shoulder the financial burden caused by these companies, whose reckless behavior led to contamination across Illinois,” Raoul said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “PCBs have been banned in the U.S. for decades. Yet, Sauget and its surrounding communities are still dealing with the environmental effects of Monsanto’s decisions to continue producing and disposing of a dangerous toxic chemical. It’s time Monsanto is held responsible for its actions that continue to impact Illinois’ natural resources.”

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Raoul points out that Sauget, a town of 141 people, is already the location of two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites, and nearby East St. Louis and Cahokia Heights, both economically depressed minority communities, “bear the brunt” of Monsanto’s environmental contamination.

There are standing ordinances in those communities which prohibit the use of the groundwater as a potable water supply due to the levels of contamination.

Monsanto PCB lawsuits

Because it was the primary manufacturer of PCBs, Monsanto has faced similar PCB lawsuits from other communities.

In May 2019, the County of Los Angeles filed a similar complaint against the company. The lawsuit identifies numerous bodies of water contaminated with PCBs, including the entire Los Angeles River, San Gabriel River and Ballona Creek Watersheds, as well as the watersheds for the Dominguez Channel, Los Angeles Harbor, South and North Santa Monica Bay and the Santa Clara River. PCP levels are high enough in some local bodies of water to classify them as impaired, including Los Angeles Harbor, Long Beach Harbor, Santa Monica Bay, Marina Del Rey Harbor and numerous lakes and estuaries throughout the county of more than 10 million people.

Baltimore filed a similar water contamination lawsuit in February 2019.

In 2016, a St. Louis jury ordered Monsanto to pay $46.5 million to three plaintiffs who claimed they contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma from PCB exposure.

In what became known as the Walker case, plaintiffs indicated that exposure through the food chain led to their cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, noting that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer had warned of a link between PCBs and cancer.

Plaintiffs argued that the company contaminated the entire food chain with PCBs, which could, theoretically, give anyone who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma the ability to bring a case, if they can convince a jury of specific causation, which they were able to do before the St. Louis jury.

October 2022 Monsanto Lawsuit Updates

This liability from dumping PCBs adds to the mounting legal woes for Bayer and its Monsanto unit, who face thousands of lawsuits brought by individuals who indicate they have developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma from exposure to Roundup, the widely used weed killer previously marketed by Monsanto as safe.

The company has reported it will pay more than $11.6 billion in Roundup settlements. However, finalization of the agreements has been slow, with many plaintiffs rejecting their individual offers and new claims continuing to be filed by individuals diagnosed with cancer following prior use of the weed killer.

To limit its future liability over Roundup, Bayer recently announced plans to remove the active ingredient glyphosate from Roundup weed killers sold to U.S. residential customers by 2023. The products would still be sold under the Roundup label, but would use a different active ingredient, which has not been linked to a risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, glyphosate would still be used in products sold to agricultural businesses and farmers, and in product sold in other parts of the world, Bayer officials said.

1 Comments

  • TontOctober 7, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    The chemical division of Monsanto called Solutia was spun off from the original Monsanto in - 1998. Monsanto was acquired by Pharmacia in 1999 and then Pharmacia spin off the agricultural group as Monsanto in about 2000 To deal with the high debt of the ag division Pharmacia took on the debt but forced the new Monsanto to take on any liability for the chemical group Solutia. Solutia went b[Show More]The chemical division of Monsanto called Solutia was spun off from the original Monsanto in - 1998. Monsanto was acquired by Pharmacia in 1999 and then Pharmacia spin off the agricultural group as Monsanto in about 2000 To deal with the high debt of the ag division Pharmacia took on the debt but forced the new Monsanto to take on any liability for the chemical group Solutia. Solutia went bust and so even though none who works at Monsanto or any shareholder was involved in PCB production they are now labeled as liable. It’s like blaming a 18 yr old German for Hitler. Nonetheless Bayer the new owner of the New Monsanto us now the defendant as every town and states aims to get money from them. The old Monsanto stopped producing PCBs several years before they were banned. If they polluted from their production plants that is closer to fair game but blaming them because people who used their product didn’t disposed of it correct is simply not fair. You don’t sue paint makers for pollution caused by a consumer pouring it didn’t the drain do you! You don’t blame a gasoline producer for a car fire caused by bad driving do you.

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