City of Los Angeles Sues Monsanto for Lasting Damages Caused by Toxic PCBs

On Monday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced a lawsuit against Monsanto Co., Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC for polluting waterways with harmful chemicals known as PCBs. Feuer alleged that Monsanto knew about the toxicity of PCBs for decades, but concealed this information and continued to sell them publicly despite being certain that they would “cause massive and long-lasting environmental contamination.”

According to the complaint, Monsanto manufactured, marketed, used and sold PCBs from 1935 until they were banned in 1979. They were used in “paint, ink, paper products, fireproofing products, hydraulic fluids and industrial equipment.” Unfortunately, “even to this day,” Monsanto’s PCBs drain into L.A. Harbor, Dominguez Channel, Echo Park Lake, Machado Lake, Marina Del Rey, and Santa Monica Bay through wastewater and stormwater channels. PCBs have been shown to cause “cancer; liver, thyroid and ocular changes; neurodevelopmental and behavioral changes; and reduced birth weight,” per the city.

Monsanto’s “decades-long campaign of deception and misinformation” continues to affect American citizens across the country since PCBs break down very slowly. The defendants produced 99% of all PCBs between 1929 and 1977 despite internal reports of the high toxicity of this chemical. In order to combat this, Los Angeles has had to undertake “costly remediation measures” including cleanups, monitoring and taking measures to filter and remove PCBs from waterways. However, more than 40 years after their banning, some fish in L.A. are unsafe to eat, and people continue to suffer health issues caused by this carcinogenic substance.

Feuer is seeking an order requiring Monsanto to abate the public nuisance they created, monetary damages, punitive and exemplary damages, a determination that Monsanto is liable for future costs related to the damages caused by PCBs, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees and costs, and other relief.

A spokesperson for Bayer provided the following statement to Law Street Media.

“We are reviewing this lawsuit and will respond to the complaint in greater detail at the appropriate time; however, we believe it is without merit. Monsanto voluntarily ceased its lawful manufacturing of PCBs more than 40 years ago, and never manufactured, used, or disposed of PCBs into Los Angeles’ waters, and therefore should not be held liable for the contamination alleged by the city. Where it has been determined that those cleanups are necessary, federal, and state authorities employ an effective system to identify dischargers and allocate clean-up responsibilities. Litigation of the sort brought by the city risks undermining these efforts.

“In June 2020, Monsanto announced a series of agreements with state and local governments that resolve cases representing most of the company’s exposure to PCB water litigation. These agreements contain no admission of wrongdoing or liability. One agreement establishes a class that includes approximately 2,500 local governments with EPA permits involving water discharges impaired by PCBs. Under this settlement, which is pending court approval before Judge Fernando M. Olguin in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the company will make a payment of $650 million, for which it has already accounted. Local governments that do not opt out of the class would be covered by the terms of this agreement. The company has also reached separate settlements with the Attorneys General of New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington, and the District of Columbia to resolve similar PCB cases.”