Monsanto Knowingly Polluted SF Bay with Toxic PCBs, Now Oakland Faces Billion Dollar Cleanup

Oakland city attorney says the chemical giant “chose profits over people, and American cities and citizens are still suffering the consequences.”

Targeting the chemical giant which for decades allegedly polluted the San Francisco Bay with a highly toxic environmental contaminant, the city of Oakland on Tuesday filed suit against Monsanto.

In a press statement announcing the suit, Oakland city attorney Barbara Parker accused Monsanto of concealing information on the dangers of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs), long before they were banned by U.S. Congress. Parker charges that despite this knowledge, Monsanto continued to produce and distribute these compounds, thus destroying marine ecosystems and threatening human health.

“Monsanto knew that PCBs were toxic and could not be contained as they readily escaped into the environment, finding their way into bays, oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, soil and air,” the statement charges. “Although evidence confirms that Monsanto recognized that PCBs were becoming ‘a global contaminant,’ well before the 1979 ban, it concealed this information and increased production of these profitable compounds.”

Banned by Congress in 1979 and later by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001, PCBs are a common environmental contaminant associated with illnesses including cancer and are often found in the tissues of marine life, animals, and humans. According to a watchdog report (pdf), Monsanto was responsible for 99 percent of U.S. production of PCBs, commonly found in a variety of products and applications including power transformers, electrical equipment, paints, caulks, and other building materials.

California’s Water Resources Control Board has determined that the presence of PCBs in Oakland’s storm water system threatens San Francisco Bay and has issued a tentative order calling for the city to stymie this flow—at an estimated cost of $1 billion.

The company that is responsible for this vast contamination should bear the burden of cleaning up our environment, not the taxpayers of Oakland and California,” Parker added. “Monsanto knew that its products posed a significant threat to human and environmental health around the world. However, the company chose profits over protecting people, and American cities and citizens are still suffering the consequences.”

Oakland is one of a growing number of municipalities seeking reparations from Monsanto for its knowing distribution of this toxic compound. This summer a St. Louis County court ruled in favor of Monsanto in a similar case.

This post first appeared in Common Dreams.

By Lauren McCauley

Lauren McCauley has been a staff writer at Common Dreams since October 2012. When not writing and editing headline articles, she spends her time producing documentary films. Her most recent project, Mississippi Messiah, is a feature about civil rights icon, James Meredith. She also co-produced the films The Hollywood Complex and Soundtrack for a Revolution, about the protest music of the civil rights movement. Previously, while writing for Newsweek, Lauren was nominated for the 2008 GLAAD Media Award for Digital Journalism.