By Mark Edward Nero
The Port of Portland on Jan. 4 filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Oregon against multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto for what the port calls widespread chemical contamination impacting port properties.
Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of polychlorinated biphenyl, an organic chlorine compound commonly known as PCBs, from 1935 until they were banned by the federal government in 1979.
Despite the ban, they remain in the environment, and are associated with extensive human health impacts, including cancer and damage to immune, reproductive and endocrine systems.
PCBs were widely used in industrial and commercial businesses and are found in paint and caulk, in electric transformers and capacitors, in wire and cable coatings, and in coolants, sealants and lubricants.
PCBs are the primary contaminants driving cleanup in the Lower Willamette River and the Portland Harbor Superfund site. The Port of Portland says it has invested millions of dollars studying the legacy contamination in and along the Willamette River and Portland Harbor. However, the port says the impact of PCB contamination is broader than the Superfund site, including McBride Slough at Portland International Airport.
The Port of Portland claims to have evidence that Monsanto became aware of how toxic and dangerous PCBs were while they manufactured their PCB containing products, and that they concealed that information.
“Any decision to conceal facts about human health should have consequences,” Curtis Robinhold, the Port of Portland’s deputy executive director, said. “Monsanto reaped huge profits from the manufacture and sale of PCBs, and it is entirely appropriate for those faced with the cost of cleaning up this contamination to hold them accountable.”
The US District Court case number is 17-cv-00015. The port is represented by the law firm of Baron & Budd, P.C. and Gomez Trial Attorneys, which also represent the cities of Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Wash., San Jose, Calif., Oakland, Berkeley, Calif., Long Beach, Calif., San Diego, and the State of Washington.