The city of Berkeley will receive at least $1 million to mitigate polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, contamination of water sources from a recent settlement with multinational agrochemical company Monsanto, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
Berkeley was among a group of 13 cities and counties that filed a class action complaint against Monsanto. The action resulted in a $550 million settlement, announced Wednesday, aimed at compensating affected areas for the cost of managing contamination of water and sediment caused by PCBs. The settlement will be paid by the international pharmaceutical company Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018.
Before they were banned in the United States in 1979, PCBs were common industrial compounds used internationally. PCBs have been shown to cause health problems in the immune, nervous and reproductive systems of humans, as well as cancer in animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Monsanto, the sole manufacturer of PCBs in the United States, sold the compounds legally between 1935 and 1977, but a series of lawsuits alleged that the company knew PCBs were hazardous to public health and the environment.
According to City Attorney Farimah Brown, the class action settlement was reached after five years of “contentious” litigation between the plaintiffs and Monsanto. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto since 2015 seeking cost recovery for stormwater and environmental contamination caused by PCBs, Brown added.
According to Brown, the settlement will be distributed to 2,528 cities, counties and other districts following court approval.
“Berkeley is one of the relatively small number of jurisdictions that actively pursued claims against Monsanto, and those entities have now negotiated a settlement that will have a nationwide benefit,” Brown said in an email.
Many bodies of water nationwide, including San Francisco Bay, have been contaminated due to discharges of PCBs, according to Brown. Because Berkeley operates a municipal separate storm sewer system that releases in San Francisco Bay, Brown said in the email, Berkeley became involved in the litigation against Monsanto.
The City Council will determine how to use the funds from the settlement, Brown added.
“The San Francisco Bay is a precious regional resource and Berkeley has been at the forefront of the national movement to protect our waterways,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in a press release. “We are proud to lead efforts to protect it, yet again, and to protect waters throughout the state and nation.”
The resolution of this class action settlement was one of a series of agreements over Monsanto litigation that Bayer recently completed, resulting in total settlement payments of more than $10 billion, according to a Bayer press release. These agreements do not admit liability or wrongdoing, the press release adds.
Bayer has also entered into separate agreements with Washington, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., regarding similar PCB claims, which will result in settlements totaling about $170 million, according to the press release.