OAKLAND, CA – Today Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker filed a lawsuit to hold the Monsanto chemical company accountable for its long-standing contamination of Oakland’s storm water and the San Francisco Bay with highly toxic Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs).
Monsanto produced PCBs for approximately 50 years until the U.S. Congress banned them because they endanger human and environmental health. Despite the 1979 ban, today PCBs are a common environmental contaminant that is found in all natural resources including water and plants as well as the tissues of marine life, animals and humans. PCBs can destroy fish habitats and are associated with illnesses and cancer in humans.
“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,” City Attorney Parker said. “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.”
During the five decades prior to the 1979 ban, Monsanto’s PCBs were incorporated into a wide variety of products and applications including power transformers, electrical equipment, paints, caulks and other building materials. 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. 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.
The State Water Resources Control Board has determined that the presence of PCBs in Oakland’s storm water threatens San Francisco Bay as a habitat for fish and wildlife and interferes with the Bay’s use and enjoyment by the people of the State of California. The Board recently issued a tentative order that affects the City’s storm water operations and may require a reduction in the maximum daily load of PCBs that flow from Oakland waterways into the Bay. Other California cities are subject to similar storm water orders related to the reduction of PCBs prior to discharge into the ocean or other waterways.
Oakland will incur significant costs to remove PCBs from storm water flowing into San Francisco Bay. County-wide costs could reach $1 billion.
Parker emphasized that those clean-up costs should not be borne by taxpayers, but by the company that knew its product would cause this contamination.
Oakland is one of a growing number of cities that have filed similar lawsuits against Monsanto including San Jose, San Diego, and Spokane, Washington. The law firms of Baron & Budd and Gomez Trial Attorneys filed the lawsuit on behalf of the City of Oakland. Baron & Budd, P.C., based in Dallas, Texas, has represented hundreds of public entities nationwide whose water supplies, properties or natural resources are affected by chemical contaminants. Gomez Trial Attorneys, based in San Diego, specializes in complex litigation on behalf of those who have been injured by corporate greed.