“Monsanto helped to create the problem and should be a part of the solution,” said Marlene Feist, utilities director of strategic development in Spokane, WA.
The problem is contamination from Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were used to insulate electric equipment and in numerous products, including paint, for much of the 20th century. The chemicals were manufactured by Monsanto for decades until production was banned in the United States in 1979.
Spokane, Washington state, the Port of Portland, and other west coast cities have recently filed lawsuits against Monsanto over PCB pollution—and more states could be poised to file their own legal actions.
PCBs have been linked to cancer, immune system problems, and other health issues. And the chemical has been found in waterways all over Washington—one of the worst affected is the Spokane River, the state said.
“For us, it’s really about how do we get the cleanest river for future generations,” Feist said. “This river is our greatest asset—it runs through the heart of the city, it’s an economic driver, and a driver of outdoor recreation.”
The cost of the cleanup as well as the environmental and health impacts are what have prompted at least nine West Coast cities to sue Monsanto for damages associated with PCBs.
In December, Washington became the first state to sue Monsanto over PCB pollution.
“PCBs have been found in bays, rivers, streams, sediment, soil and air throughout Washington state, with more than 600 suspected or confirmed contamination sites from Puget Sound to the Wenatchee River, Lake Spokane to Commencement Bay,” a press release from Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.