For 50 years, St. Louis-based chemical company Monsanto contaminated the San Francisco Bay with its production of the highly toxic chemical polychlorinated biphenyl, a.k.a. PCBs. The company continued manufacturing the chemical even after it recognized some of the dangers associated with PCBs, until a 1979 ban by Congress forced it to stop. The half century plus of pollution has left the city of Oakland with a cleanup bill estimated at $1 billion, and Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker thinks Monsanto should cover the costs. Parker yesterday filed a lawsuit against the global behemoth, and she intends to make them pay.
“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,” Parker said in a statement released yesterday.
Today, PCBs are found throughout the Bay — damaging marine habitats and causing cancer in both animals and humans.
Previous to the 1979 ban, PCBs produced by Monsanto were used in a wide variety of products including building materials, paints, and various electrical equipment.
Think Progress reports that a 1970 internal Monsanto memo alerted the company's employees that PCBs had been found to be a highly toxic pollutant. Despite this, Monsanto continued to manufacture the chemical.
This lawsuit follows similar suits filed by the cities of San Jose, Spokane (Washington), and San Diego against the company.
"Monsanto knew that its products posed a significant threat to human and environmental health around the world," wrote Parker. "However, the company chose profits over protecting people, and American cities and citizens are still suffering the consequences.”