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NJ sues Monsanto over 'reckless' PCB contamination, including along Delaware River

Frank Kummer, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Science & Technology News

PHILADELPHIA — The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection filed suit Thursday against Monsanto for “extensive damage” caused by PCB contamination, citing “reckless long-term discharge of” polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) statewide and noting pollution from a company facility in Gloucester County on the Delaware River.

State officials allege that Monsanto “knew decades ago that exposure to PCBs was potentially harmful to human and animal health.” The civil suit filed in Superior Court in Woodbury, Gloucester County, seeks unspecified damages.

It alleges that PCBs made by Monsanto “have caused significant, long-term damage to New Jersey’s surface waters, groundwater, soil and air, as well as fish, birds, and other wildlife.”

PCBs are man-made chemical compounds that, before they were banned in the 1970s, were used to make lubricant, caulk, ink, dye, coolants and industrial equipment including capacitors and transformers.

The lawsuit says 6,000 miles of river, 14,000 acres of lakes, and 400 square miles of bays and estuaries in New Jersey have been damaged by PCB contamination.

The state Attorney General’s Office, which filed the suit, also named Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC as defendants. Officials say the three companies, beginning in the late 1990s, took on parts of the overall business once operated under what the suit dubs “Old Monsanto.”

 

“Our continuing commitment is to hold polluters and their corporate successors accountable for the kind of reckless, unconscionable conduct we allege in today’s complaint,” acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a statement. “PCBs contamination has harmed natural resources and threatened the health of humans and wildlife in every corner of New Jersey, from remote rural areas to suburban neighborhoods, to our cities.”

DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said, “We are calling on Monsanto to finally repair this damage and leave our natural resources better than when Monsanto PCBs found them.”

The state is seeking compensation under what’s known as a Natural Resource Damage claim that allows the federal and state governments to recover the cost of damage to the environment.

Nicole Hayes, a spokesperson for Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, said the company is reviewing the lawsuit and will respond in more detail later. Bayer is not named in the suit, but Hayes said the company believes it “is without merit and the company should not be responsible for the alleged remediation costs.”

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