Citing “catastrophic disaster”, small Massachusetts town sues over PCB contamination

By Dana Drugmand

Monsanto and General Electric (GE) engaged in a “criminal corporate action” through a secret 1972 deal that allowed the companies to keep profiting from the sale and use of dangerous PCBs despite knowing the toxins were harmful, according to a lawsuit filed by a small Massachusetts town awash in PCB contamination.

The Town of Lee, located in western Massachusetts, accuses the companies of creating a “catastrophic disaster” for residents by polluting the area with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which have been linked to cancer and other human health problems.

US regulators banned PCBs in the late 1970s, but they have persisted in the environment, spurring claims from communities across the US seeking damages for contamination.

In and around Lee, where PCBs have contaminated the Housatonic River, several families with members suffering from cancer have alleged the PCBs are to blame.

In its lawsuit, filed March 14 in Berkshire County Superior Court, the town said Monsanto had “ample proof” that PCB exposure could cause cancer more than 50 years ago, tracking the disease in hundreds of its own employees.

“We’re taking every route we possibly can to stop this injustice, and it truly is an injustice perpetrated not only on the residents of Lee but all the people in the River Corridor in Berkshire County,” Lee Select Board Chair Bob Jones said.