NJ officials sue Monsanto for Delaware River contamination

The suit dates back to actions from the 1920s and says PCBs affected 6,000 miles of rivers
A courtroom gavel.
Photo credit Zolnierek/Getty Images

UPDATE: Aug. 8, 5:36 p.m.

Bayer, parent company of Monsanto, released the following statement:

"We are reviewing this lawsuit and will respond to the complaint in greater detail at the appropriate time; however, we believe it is without merit and the company should not be responsible for the alleged remediation costs. Monsanto voluntarily ceased its lawful manufacturing of PCBs 45 years ago — that were once required by many electrical and building codes — and these materials were used in a variety of finished products that were manufactured by third-party companies who were customers of Monsanto at the time. Where it has been determined that PCB-related response activities are recommended, federal and state authorities employ an effective system to identify dischargers and allocate response cost responsibilities."

The original story follows

SOUTH JERSEY (KYW Newsradio) — The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has filed suit against agriculture company Monsanto for what it says is extensive pollution of waterways in the state.

The DEP and Office of the Attorney General are seeking unspecified damages in a civil suit filed at Gloucester County Superior Court in Woodbury.

The state says Monsanto knowingly disposed of harmful chemical compounds, known as PCBs, in the Delaware River from its facility in Bridgeport, Gloucester County. The complaint said that PCBs affected “6,000 river miles and more than 14,000 lake acres – as well as 400 square miles of bays and estuaries,” according to an attorney general’s office statement.

New Jersey's Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette said companies under the Monsanto umbrella knowingly put harmful chemicals into the environment.

The chemicals, known as PCBs, have been linked to all sorts of health issues affecting the liver and other vital organs. PCBs were used to make products like paint, caulk, ink and many others from the 1920s to the 1970s.

The complaint says that in the 1950s, the company’s medical office told workers not to eat meals in the PCB department, and that their medical director openly told employees that PCBs are toxic.

The lawsuit also cites internal communications from Monsanto in the 1960s that acknowledged the potential for “massive contamination” of waterways in New Jersey and elsewhere.

LaTourette said it’s time companies that have contributed to the deterioration of the state's natural resources are held fully accountable.

KYW Newsradio reached out to Monsanto seeking comment, but did not initially receive a response.

One of Monsanto's best-known products is Roundup, a herbicide developed in the 1970s.

Related podcast

Podcast Episode
KYW Newsradio In Depth
What happens if all the bees die? Doomsday Scenarios, ep. 5
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing