BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – Monsanto’s chemical plant in Anniston polluted water and air with carcinogenic PCBs for more than 40 years, to the point that fish caught in Alabama waters have become unsafe to eat, according to a class action in Jefferson County court. And the class claims Monsanto knew it was doing so but lied about it.
Also named as defendants are Pharmacia, Solutia, Pfizer, Kilby Steel Co., and Ransom Industries.
Five residents of the Anniston area claim that as early as 1940, Monsanto knew that exposure to PCBs could cause cancer and liver problems in humans.
Not only did Monsanto conceal the extent of the pollution, it claimed in a 1970 interview with the Anniston Star that there was not “any cause for worry from the public health standpoint” and it fudged the numbers on reports to the state about levels of PCBs leaving the plant, according to the complaint.
But Alabama officials have warned class members to keep children away from ditches and waterways, to stay out of their gardens on windy days because PCB-contaminated dust can be “stirred up” and get in their nose and mouth, and have warned Alabamans not to eat fish they catch because of higher than normal levels of mercury.
Monsanto has been sued repeatedly for pollution violations. In 2003, it settled claims from 20,000 Anniston residents for $700 million.
These five plaintiffs claim that when the first lawsuits were filed in the 1990s, Monsanto tried to “buy out” area residents to decrease the number of plaintiffs. But the class claims that demolition of the neighborhoods only made the situation worse due to the increased dust from the demolition sites.
The plaintiffs say they stayed in the area because Monsanto assured them that PCBs did not cause any “human injuries or disease.” They seek damages for fraud, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other charges.
They are represented by Gregory Cade with the Environmental Litigation Group.