UPDATED: Port of Portland Files Lawsuit Against Monsanto | Global Trade Magazine
U.S. Ports
  January 11th, 2017 | Written by

UPDATED: Port of Portland Files Lawsuit Against Monsanto

Claims PCBs Contaminating Port Properties

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  • “Any decision to conceal facts about human health should have consequences.”
  • Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs for more than 40 years.
  • PCBs were banned by the U.S. government in 1979, but persist in the environment.

The Port of Portland, has filed a lawsuit in a United States District Court in Oregon against Monsanto Company for PCB contamination impacting port properties.

The port is the 10th public entity in the west to sue Monsanto for PCB contamination. The case was filed January 4, 2017.

Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs for more than 40 years, between 1935 and 1979. PCBs were banned by the federal government in 1979, but persist in the environment. They are associated with extensive human health impacts, including cancer and damage to immune, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

PCBs were widely used in industrial and commercial businesses and are found in paint and caulk, in electric transformers and capacitors, in wire and cable coatings, and in coolants, sealants, and lubricants.

The port says has evidence that Monsanto became aware of how toxic and dangerous PCBs were during the time they manufactured their PCB containing products, and that they concealed that information.

“Any decision to conceal facts about human health should have consequences,” said Curtis Robinhold, the Port of Portland deputy executive director. “Monsanto reaped huge profits from the manufacture and sale of PCBs, and it is entirely appropriate for those faced with the cost of cleaning up this contamination to hold them accountable.”

“It’s time Monsanto do the right thing and contribute to the clean-up of their own toxic chemicals,” added John Fiske, an attorney hired to help prosecute the case.

PCBs are the primary contaminant driving cleanup in the Lower Willamette River and the Portland Harbor Superfund site. The port has invested millions of dollars studying the legacy contamination in those locations. However, the impact of PCB contamination is broader than the Superfund site, including McBride Slough at Portland International Airport.

A spokesperson for Monsanto denigrated the lawsuit and the Port of Portland’s attorneys, charging the port with “pursuing an experimental case on grounds never recognized in Oregon history,” and dubbing the port’s lawyers as “out-of-state contingency fee lawyers.”

Monsanto believes the case “lacks merit,” said Scott S. Partridge, the company’s vice president for global strategy. “The port’s case targets a product manufacturer for selling four to eight decades ago a lawful and useful chemical that was used by the U.S. government, the state of Oregon, and local cities, and incorporated by industries into many products to make them safer. PCBs have not been produced in the U.S. for four decades.”

Partridge added that the case “threatens to delay and derail years of Portland Harbor Superfund allocation proceedings involving the responsible parties who actually discharged PCBs.”

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