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Spokane, Washington Sues Monsanto

Spokane, Washington Sues Monsanto

 Monsanto Sued by Spokane Over Decades Long PCB Scandal

AwN | I find it somewhat scary and somewhat humorous that a company whose name implies, "My Saint," and shares a likeness with the name meaning "sacred mountain," has a spokesperson named Charla(tan?) Lord. Of course we all know that company is anything but a Saint, and certainly holds no mountain sacred, except maybe the mountain of cash they sit upon.... but I've digressed. I was delighted to see this article today on my "Earth News" feed. The city of Spokane Washington is suing Monsanto over their use of PCB's and its ensuing contamination of the Spokane River.

Monsanto seems to be arguing that since they are only an agricultural company now, that their former usage of PCBs (the sole producer from 1935 to 1979) is not an indictment of the current company, and their agribusiness. PCBs were banned in the late 1970's but it seems there is a question as to whether or not Monsanto obscured, or hid knowledge of the dangers of PCBs before they ceased to be used. 


Of course in the end it is not likely that this lawsuit will fix the environmental devastation, nor have any true impact on Monsanto as a whole, it is still nice to see a city standing up for itself against a corporation. Read that again, and think how sad it has become that even city hall's power pales in comparison to giant corporations.

Resources on the Lawsuit

The river, despite Monsanto's pollution, is beautiful and winds lazily through the city, and is home to beavers, fish, ducks and other wildlife. Its waters are cold even in the summer, and it is a favorite getaway for the nature-loving residents of Spokane. Despite the well documented contamination, people still swim in it and enjoy exercising and cooling down there in the summer. I know this because I have swum in this river and can say with confidence that it is more than just another polluted water resource in some distant place. The Spokane River is one of the most coveted pieces of nature in this small city, a treasure that has been tainted by Monsanto for decades, and now the City of Spokane is seeking damages for the money they will have to spend to return the river to its pristine state.

The City of Spokane, WA, today took an important step in improving the vitality and health of the Spokane River. Spokane filed a lawsuit to hold Monsanto Company responsible for PCB contamination that finds its way into the City's stormwater that flows into the Spokane River. According to a recent federal case, Spokane will become subject to a PCB TMDL, or Total Maximum Daily Load, which is a maximum amount of pollutant that a body of water such as the Spokane River can receive while still meeting water quality standards.

Struggling with the pollution of the Spokane River, a town in the state of Washington is taking agrochemical giant Monsanto to court for selling chemicals that endanger human health and the environment, despite it allegedly having known of the hazard for decades.

The lawsuit, filed in a US District Court in Spokane, Washington, holds Monsanto accountable for pollutants flowing into the 111 miles (179 km) long Spokane River that stretches from northern Idaho to eastern Washington.

“Spokane filed a lawsuit to hold Monsanto Company responsible for PCB contamination that finds its way into the City’s stormwater that flows into the Spokane River,” Environmental Law Firms Baron & Budd and Gomez Trial Attorneys, representing Spokane said in a press release. 

Lord, the company’s spokeswoman, noted that the company has produced many products, and has gone through many transformations, over the years.

“Monsanto today, and for the last decade, has been focused solely on agriculture, but we share a name with a company that dates back to 1901,” Lord wrote in a statement. “The former Monsanto was involved in a wide variety of businesses including the manufacture of PCBs. PCBs were industrial chemicals, which were sold to sophisticated companies who incorporated them as safety fluids into electrical equipment, into plastics, and into thousands of useful construction and building material products. PCBs served an important fire protection and safety purpose for the electrical and other industries. The manufacture of PCBs in the United States was banned in 1979, although the former Monsanto voluntarily ceased production and selling before that.” 

Attorney Scott Summy, a shareholder at Baron & Budd, P.C., one of two firms representing Spokane in the lawsuit, believes that Monsanto should shoulder the burden for the vast contamination: “No company should be allowed to contaminate the environment and rely upon taxpayers to clean up the mess. Monsanto, one of the most sophisticated chemical companies in the world, knew decades ago that PCBs were a significant contamination threat. And yet the company was concerned more with continuing profits than with protecting the public.”

Summy’s co-counsel, Attorney John Fiske, of Gomez Trial Attorneys, agrees: “The City will incur significant costs to remove PCBs from stormwater and wastewater effluent flowing into the Spokane River, costs that should not be borne by the City or by its taxpayers but by the company that knew its product would cause this contamination.” Two other lawsuits were recently filed by the same law firms on behalf of the City of San Diego and the City of San Jose. 

Image Courtesy of:

"MK02733 Spokane Upper Falls" by Martin Kraft - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

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