Washington is the first state in the nation to sue the Monsanto Company for damage caused by PCBs, according to Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The state Department of Ecology warns there is a tiny amount of the cancer-causing chemical in every fish caught in these waters.
Monsanto is the only company that made PCBs until they were banned in 1979.
“Monsanto produced these dangerous chemicals despite knowing about their dangers. They knew they concealed that information from the public,” Ferguson said.
The lawsuit quotes a 1937 Monsanto document, in which the company says "that repeated oral ingestion of PCBs will lead to systemic toxic effects."
Maps produced by the attorney general's office allege there are contamination sites statewide, including many lakes and rivers. And the state sometimes says children and pregnant women should not eat any fish from these places at all.
Governor Jay Inslee says the amount of PCBs found in Puget Sound orcas is among the highest recorded in the world.
"It calls for accountability and accountability starts with this suit. This company needs to be held responsible for the damage that it has caused the Evergreen State and the Evergreen State is standing up on its hind feet and is going to ask for an appropriate level of accountability in this case.”
In a statement, Monsanto responded, “This case is highly experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington State, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer.
"PCBs have not been produced in the U.S. for four decades, and Washington is now pursuing a case on a contingency fee basis that departs from settled law both in Washington and across the country.
Most of the prior cases filed by the same contingency fee lawyers have been dismissed, and Monsanto believes this case similarly lacks merit.”
The state is suing for damages to the economy and citizens of Washington and for cleanup costs. Any damages will be determined at trial, but the attorney general’s office believes they will total in the millions of dollars.
Cox Media Group