The city of Portland, Ore., has unanimously decided to sue Monsanto for contaminating waterways with polychlorinated biphenyls (PBCs). Portland joins 6 other West Coast cities in authorizing this suit. The hearing is set for March 31. City Attorney Tracy Reeve will be suing the company on the city's behalf.
Monsanto was the sole U.S. manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyls between the 1930s and the 1970s, producing over 1 billion pounds of the chemical.
"During that time there's documentary evidence that Monsanto knew that PCBs were dangerous to the environment, that they migrated from waterways to fish, from fish to birds and also to people and they, nonetheless, continued to manufacture and distribute PCBs," Reeve told KGW.
Portland has been aware of the presence of the carcinogens for some time, and the city has already spent over a billion dollars to clean up the polychlorinated biphenyls in Willamette River and Columbia Slough, Mayor Charlie Hales told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
"Monsanto profited from selling PCBs for decades and needs to take responsibility for cleaning up after the mess it created," Reeve said in a statement.
Monsanto responded to the announcement of the suit with a statement that read, "Monsanto is not responsible for the costs alleged in this matter. Monsanto today, and for the last decade, has been focused solely on agriculture, but we share a name with a company that dates back to 1901."
Monsanto stopped manufacturing polychlorinated biphenyls in 1977, and the chemicals were banned by Congress in 1979, but PCB residue can remain for decades after being introduced to an environment.
Polychlorinated biphenyls were mainly produced as insulating fluids in heavy-duty electrical equipment and as a dust suppressant for roads. Monsanto produced PCBs under the trade name Aroclor.
Seattle, Spokane, Berkeley, Oakland, San Diego, and San Jose have already authorized similar lawsuits against Monsanto due to the presence of PCBs.
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Willamette river image via Shutterstock