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Marin County sues Monsanto over alleged PCB contamination

PIX Now 10:40

MARIN COUNTY – Marin County, along with several of its municipalities, have filed a lawsuit against biotech giant Monsanto alleging polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in their communities, the county announced Friday. 

PCBs were banned in 1979, but since 1930, 99 percent of all PCBs used in the U.S. were produced by Monsanto, the county says. 

The cities of Belvedere, Mill Valley, Novato, San Rafael and Sausalito are plaintiffs in the case filed on Thursday, as well as the towns of Corte Madera, Ross, San Anselmo and Tiburon. 

In addition to Monsanto, Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC are also defendants in the suit. 

Marin County alleges that Monsanto has known about the dangers of PCBs for "more than 50 years" and continued to promote their products anyway, which will now cost the county a lot of money to clean up.

"Similar suits have been filed nationwide," said the county, "with plaintiff agencies alleging that Monsanto deliberately misled the public, environmental regulators, and its own customers so it could reap massive profits from PCB sales."

Multiple multi-million dollar lawsuits have been filed and won against the company for intentionally covering up the knowledge that some of their products were harmful.

County Counsel Brian Washington said the county chose to opt out of a proposed national class-action settlement against Monsanto because it "failed to sufficiently cover the anticipated costs to comply with regulations and prevent further damage."

Washington said the costs associated with the contamination are huge, including testing and monitoring for PCBs, infrastructure to capture the chemicals in runoff, and more frequent street sweepings, to name a few.

State and regional regulators have mandated that "stringent" regulations will require them to "drastically" reduce PCB runoff, the county said. 

Washington points out that the PCB contamination in the Bay Area is so great that people are asked not to eat most fish caught in the Bay. 

"This lawsuit arises out of the contamination of the County, Municipalities and the San Francisco Bay by polychlorinated biphenyls," the county's claim reads. "PCBs are ubiquitous contaminants that are detected in human, animal and plant tissue around the world. PCBs are dangerous to human health, animal health and the environment." 

The claim alleges that PCBs have contaminated just about every inch of Marin County, from "buildings, roadways, infrastructure, inland waters, soils, flora and fauna."

Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2018 and has paid out over $10 billion in suits associated with the now-defunct company, though they are not specifically named as a plaintiff in Marin's suit. Requests for comment made to Bayer regarding the lawsuit were not immediately returned. 

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