September 23, 2023
Burlington College District sues Monsanto over PCB contamination
Burlington College District sues Monsanto over PCB contamination
Burlington Excessive College seen on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Picture by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The Burlington College District filed a lawsuit in federal court docket on Monday arguing that Monsanto ought to pay for the development of a brand new highschool.

The district alleges that the agrochemical large, together with affiliated firms Solutia and Pharmacia, are liable for contamination of the now-shuttered highschool from polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Courtroom in Burlington, seeks compensation for the mitigation and elimination of the PCBs, in addition to the price of constructing a brand new faculty, estimated at round $190 million.

“At this time’s submitting brings us one step nearer to holding the producer of those poisonous chemical compounds accountable for the hurt it has inflicted on our neighborhood,” stated Superintendent Tom Flanagan in a press launch Monday afternoon.

The pharmaceutical firm Bayer, which purchased Monsanto in 2018, stated in an emailed assertion on Monday that the lawsuit “has no advantage however hopefully it can make clear the position of the state of Vermont, the Burlington College District and the producers of the constructing merchandise at subject in creating the proper storm that resulted in unwarranted actions to desert the varsity, transfer college students to a transformed Macy’s, cancel renovation plans and spend $165 million, greater than twice the renovation value, to construct a brand new highschool – actions that would have been prevented.”

Burlington voters just lately accepted borrowing as much as $165 million to construct a brand new highschool on the Institute Highway campus, the place the previous constructing has sat empty for the reason that discovery of PCBs greater than two years in the past.

When the varsity district introduced its plan to sue Monsanto in October, officers stated they hoped to make use of cash awarded from the lawsuit to pay down the bond. 

PCBs are poisonous and harmful chemical compounds that have been manufactured till 1977, based on the lawsuit. 

“Throughout that interval, Monsanto was liable for the manufacture of 99% or extra of all PCBs used or bought inside america,” the lawsuit states. 

Widespread sources of contamination attributable to PCBs embrace “caulking, glazing, sealants, and flooring adhesives,” based on the go well with, which additionally notes that one of many highschool buildings has “excessive ranges” of PCBs in spray-on insulation.

Along with airborne contamination from the unique PCB supplies, the lawsuit goes on to say that the chemical can “leach or migrate” into constructing supplies similar to wooden, masonry or concrete.

The lawsuit describes the indoor air contamination from PCBs at Burlington Excessive College as “considerably in extra of the related Vermont requirements,” and particulars the presence of PCBs in development supplies and soil across the faculty. 

The lawsuit goes on to allege that Monsanto “deliberately misled the general public in regards to the risks posed by its PCB merchandise”; that the corporate “knew PCBs have been harmful contaminants-even because it advised its clients that PCBs have been protected”; that it declined further PCB evaluation; and that it continued a “deception to guard its PCB franchise.”

The district claims that, had Monsanto “adequately warned the district previous to development of the varsity buildings, the district wouldn’t have allowed using development supplies with PCBs within the development course of.”

It additionally makes the case that if the corporate “adequately warned the district within the interval following the set up of those PCB-containing constructing supplies, the district might have eliminated these supplies sooner-which would have made it far less expensive for the district to remediate the BHS/BTC buildings as an alternative of changing them,” referring to the highschool and Burlington Technical Middle.

A number of former Burlington educators filed a separate go well with in opposition to Monsanto in October, alleging that they’ve suffered from medical circumstances attributable to working contained in the PCB-contaminated highschool. 

The district’s lawsuit was filed by attorneys from Burlington-based Langrock, Sperry and Wool and the nationwide regulation companies, Seeger Weiss and Grant and Eisenhofer.

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