January 29, 2023
Burlington College District to sue Monsanto over PCB contamination
Burlington College District to sue Monsanto over PCB contamination
Burlington Excessive College college students are studying remotely due to PCB contamination. File picture by Mark Johnson/VTDigger

Up to date at 2:43 p.m.

The Burlington College District introduced Thursday that it intends to sue Monsanto over contamination of Burlington Excessive College by way of polychlorinated biphenyl, a hazardous group of chemical compounds often called PCBs. 

Although the lawsuit has not but been filed, Superintendent Tom Flanagan stated throughout a press convention that the district intends to “aggressively search compensation towards the company that brought on this downside.”

Flanagan stated the district will search damages associated to the closing of Burlington Excessive College and Technical Heart in 2020 due to PCB contamination, the next relocation to the previous Macy’s constructing downtown and the prices of constructing a brand new highschool campus.

Thursday’s press convention was held outdoors the entrance doorways of the empty highschool constructing on Institute Street. Members of the college board, representatives of the concerned legislation corporations and Mayor Miro Weinberger additionally attended.

Flanagan instructed reporters that the district started discussing a doable lawsuit shortly after the highschool was closed. The district is working with Vermont legislation agency Langrock, Sperry and Wool in addition to nationwide corporations Seeger Weiss and Grant and Eisenhofer, who’ve expertise in litigation towards Monsanto. 

Burlington Superintendent Tom Flanagan speaks throughout a press convention outdoors the entrance doorways of the empty highschool constructing on Institute Street, asserting the college district intends to sue Monsanto over contamination of the constructing, on Thursday, Oct. 13. Photograph by Patrick Crowley/VTDigger

Flanagan stated the district, beneath its settlement with its attorneys, won’t pay authorized charges until the go well with prevails.

District officers stated they’re suing Monsanto for its position in manufacturing PCB.

In in search of compensation for damages, the district hopes to “reduce the impacts on taxpayers for prices they need to not need to bear,” Flanagan stated. Burlington residents will vote Nov. 8 on whether or not to approve a bond of as much as $165 million to pay for a brand new highschool, which would come with remediation for PCB contamination.

Monsanto, an agrochemical firm, was bought to Bayer in 2018. Bayer spokesperson Nicole Hayes stated Bayer would reply to a criticism if one is filed in courtroom.

“The previous Monsanto firm voluntarily stopped producing PCBs 45 years in the past and its conduct has been acceptable always,” Hayes stated. “Till the corporate terminated their manufacturing, PCBs have been lawfully utilized in numerous industrial merchandise that have been manufactured by different firms.”

Audio system on the Burlington press convention used the chance to make a plug for the bond. Clare Wool, chair of the college board, stated the district can’t begin building on a brand new highschool until the bond is permitted. However she additionally famous {that a} profitable lawsuit would assist pay for the debt.

“Any cash recovered from litigation could be used to pay down the bond in future years and scale back the quantity taxpayers could be required to pay on debt,” Wool stated.

Wool acknowledged the authorized proceedings might take awhile.

“Despite the fact that we plan to pursue this course of environmental justice zealously and aggressively, we’re viewing this as a long-term technique,” Wool stated. “And we’re anticipating that this work may devour numerous years.”

A number of former Burlington Excessive College educators final week sued Monsanto over the identical contamination, alleging they suffered severe well being impacts from publicity. Flanagan stated the district’s lawsuit is just not linked to the educators’ go well with, saying the district has been at work for a number of months to establish legislation corporations with expertise in environmental litigation.

Flanagan additionally voiced assist for the go well with filed by former staff.

“We care deeply about folks in our personal neighborhood, significantly our personal workers,” Flanagan stated.

If you wish to preserve tabs on Vermont’s schooling information, enroll right here to get a weekly electronic mail with all of VTDigger’s reporting on increased schooling, early childhood packages and Ok-12 schooling coverage.

Do you know VTDigger is a nonprofit?

Our journalism is made doable by member donations. When you worth what we do, please contribute and assist preserve this very important useful resource accessible to all.

Leave a Reply