BALTIMORE – The city of Baltimore is suing agrochemical giant Monsanto and two other companies, claiming they were “completely aware” that the chemicals used in some of their products were toxic and didn’t degrade in nature.
Suzanne Sangree, Baltimore’s director of affirmative litigation, claimed the suit is the first of its kind on the East Coast and the 15th nationally. She said it focuses on industrial chemicals known as PCBs, which have long accumulated in the bodies of people and wildlife across the globe.
“They vaporize out and attach to particles in the air, and end up in the silt of our waterways as well as in the tissues of birds, fish and humans,” she said. “All of us have it in us now.”
The suit, which also includes Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia Corp., seeks monetary damages associated with PCB chemicals in the city’s stormwater and certain bodies of water. Monsanto has said it believes Baltimore’s complaint is without merit and the company has not produced products containing PCBs for more than 40 years.
Congress banned the domestic production of PCBs starting in 1978, concerned about their toxicity.
In recent court trials, Sangree said, a mountain of Monsanto documents have been made public, indicating the company knew the PCBs in products it was making in the 1930s wouldn’t necessarily stay in those products. PCBs once commonly were found in paint, caulking and plastics.
“The PCBs don’t degrade; they last forever,” she said, “and so, they are still at the bottom of Lake Roland, in the inner harbor, polluting the waterways of Baltimore city, as well as in a number of Baltimore city-owned properties.”
Sangree said the lawsuit is based on the concept that corporations should be held responsible for the messes they create. Other cities including San Diego, Seattle, Long Beach, Calif., and Portland, Ore., have taken similar steps against the company.
Details of the lawsuit are online at law.baltimorecity.gov.