Written by: Daniel Jennings
West Virginia’s state Supreme Court delivered a landmark victory to opponents of Monsanto, and citizens who were impacted by the company’s pollution are now receiving big payouts.
The court approved a settlement last year that will require the agribusiness giant to spend $93 million to clean up toxic contamination created by the production of herbicides and other products in the small town of Nitro, West Virginia, and this month, the settlement was finalized. The toxic herbicides Monsanto produced in Nitro included Agent Orange, the notorious herbicide used during the Vietnam War.
Dioxin, a chemical byproduct from Agent Orange, is believed to cause serious health problems.
Monsanto operated a herbicide factory in Nitro from 1948 to 2004.
“It’s been a real long haul,” attorney Stuart Calwell told The Charleston Gazette. Calwell represented Nitro area residents in a class action suit that prompted Monsanto to make the settlement.
“The politics of dioxin has been bitterly debated since the Vietnam War, but … we know that there is a health issue there and hopefully people will get their houses cleaned and the risk will come to an end and those exposed in the past will have the benefit of keeping an eye on their health.”
What Monsanto Agreed To In Settlement
“After years of litigation, now the benefits exist,” Calwell’s associate, David Carriger, said of the settlement. “However, we have a small hurdle. We need people to fill out the registration in order to get those benefits.” Here is what the settlement will require Monsanto to do:
- Spend $9 million to clean 4,500 homes around Nitro in order to remove dioxin contaminated dust.
- Spend $21 million on testing of people for dioxin.
- Set up a system that will monitor citizens for dioxin for 30 years.
- Spend another $63 million on additional tests if necessary.
- Conduct medical testing on anybody who lived in the Nitro area between Jan. 1, 1948, and Sept. 3, 2010. Persons will have to present evidence that they lived in the Nitro area to be eligible to participate in the program.
- Set up an office in Nitro to help residents register for the program. The program will be administered by Charleston attorney Thomas Flaherty, who was appointed by the court.
- Residents will still have the right to file their own lawsuits against Monsanto if medical tests show harm. Current and former Monsanto employees will not be able to participate in the settlement.
The US Supreme Court cleared the way this year for the settlement to take effect by refusing to hear a challenge brought by some Nitro area residents who disagree with the settlement. Monsanto agreed to the settlement in 2012 to prevent a costly six month trial in West Virginia state courts. This case did not involve glyphosate, another controversial toxin used in Monsanto herbicides such as Roundup.
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