Monsanto’s long history of toxic chemical manufacture hasn’t made it many friends outside other corporate interests, but still, most of us don’t know quite how far their toxic reach extends – and they’d like to keep it that way. Fortunately, at least one judge disagrees.
Thus far, Monsanto’s managed to survive at least in part by avoiding legal trouble, as their lawyers have somehow managed to get most of the cases against them thrown out. In the current case involving the city of Spokane, Washington, however, that’s no longer the case.
Spokane, the second-largest city in Washington, first filed suit against Monsanto in October 2016, looking to collect damages as a result of large-scale pollution of the Spokane River, which bisects downtown Spokane, and has long been a cultural touchstone.
Monsanto, though, has done everything in their power to make the suit go away – including claiming that too much time has passed.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, however, Federal Judge Salvador Mendoza said not so fast – and threw out seven of Monsanto’s eight claims.
“The public harm at issue here comes from PCBs reaching the River, but the nuisance itself is Monsanto’s production, marketing, and distribution of the PCBs,” Mendoza wrote.
As a result, a trial is expected, beginning in January 2018.
Monsanto’s products have caused widespread environmental damage that will cost the city hundreds of millions to clean up. City officials believe Monsanto should have to pay their part, as Scott Simmons, Public Works & Utilities Director of Spokane, said.
“This ruling is a critical first win for the City of Spokane and its residents. We believe Monsanto should have a responsibility for cleaning up this mess.”
In particular, Monsanto’s PCBs “are carcinogenic and can contaminate food supplies, including consumable fish in the Spokane River. Monsanto’s PCBs are toxic, cannot be contained in their original application, and last decades in the environment,” a press release by Business Wire on the case noted.
In total, seven major cities along the West Coast have each decided to sue Monsanto, including Portland, Oregon which became the seventh in March 2016.
The City of Spokane has said that the cost of cleaning up the Spokane River will be exorbitant, to the tune of about $300 million to keep PCBs and other pollutants from entering the river prior to a 2017 federal deadline. The specific amount of damages was not disclosed in the original lawsuit.
“Monsanto knew that PCBs would contaminate water supplies, would degrade marine habitats, would kill fish species, and would endanger birds and animals,” the city’s original complaint says. “In addition, Monsanto knew PCBs are associated with serious illnesses and cancers in humans and that humans may be exposed to PCBs” through eating or even touching fish.
Scott Summy of Baron & Budd, P.C, the national law firm representing the city, called out Monsanto following their attempts to deny responsibility.
“It’s time Monsanto steps up and does the right thing,” he said. “Enough is enough. Corporate responsibility used to mean something in this country, and Monsanto is trying to push the cost of its pollution back onto city residents.”
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