San Jose

Oakland Sues Monsanto for PCB Pollution in San Francisco Bay

Oakland is the latest city to seek financial damages for the cleaning of pollutants that go back decades.

The city on Tuesday filed suit in US District Court in San Francisco against the Monsanto company. The suit accuses Monsanto of knowing about the dangers of the PCB toxin even before the Environmental Protection Agency banned the polychlorinated biphenyls in 1979. The suit seeks monetary damages to cover the cleanup costs for PCBs in the runoff that wound up in San Francisco Bay.

“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 Barbara Parker said in a statement.

By some estimates Alameda County cleanup may approach $1 billion.

San Jose filed a similar suit against Monsanto in July.

Monsanto responded to this report with the following statement:

"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. The former Monsanto was involved in a wide variety of businesses including the manufacture of PCBs. PCBs were industrial chemicals, which were sold to sophisticated companies who incorporated them as safety fluids into electrical equipment, into plastics, and into thousands of useful construction and building material products. PCBs served an important fire protection and safety purpose for the electrical and other industries. The manufacture of PCBs in the United States was banned in 1979, although the former Monsanto voluntarily ceased production and selling before that.

We are reviewing the lawsuit and its allegations. However, Monsanto is not responsible for the costs alleged in this matter. PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into other useful products. If improper disposal or other improper uses created the necessity for clean-up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for these costs."

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