Monsanto, Solutia named in suit
2.Turmoil over toxins
3.Comments on the Pensacola News Journal site
1. Monsanto, Solutia named in suit
Fifty residents along Escambia Bay are suing the companies they say are responsible for polluting the water and fish near their properties with cancer-causing industrial chemicals.
The lawsuit filed in Circuit Court names Monsanto Co., Pharmacia Corp., Solutia Inc. and the Solutia plant manager as defendants.
It claims past and "continuing release" of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, from a plant now operated by Solutia on Old Chemstrand Road.
The former Monsanto plant has been operated since 1997 by Solutia, a subsidiary of Monsanto Co. Monsanto, founded in 1901, was acquired by Pharmacia in 2000, which in 2002 completed a spinoff of its biotechnology and agricultural businesses to form the current Monsanto Co.
The plaintiffs, who all live downstream from the plant, are seeking unspecified damages. They also want cleanup of the water and sediments in the bay and river, claiming that their property values have been or will continue to be hurt by PCB contamination.
Glynn Young, spokesman for Monsanto, said PCBs were never manufactured at the Escambia plant.
"The plant, like most of American industry, used PCBs in transformers, as hydraulic fluids and in other applications until the late 1970s," he said.
In 1969, a government laboratory found that the former Monsanto plant was discharging 1 to 32 gallons of hydraulic fuel containing PCBs into the Escambia River a day. The toxic releases reportedly did not stop until the early 1970s.
"Any alleged PCB contamination related to the plant stems from a leak that occurred in 1969, nearly 30 years before Solutia existed," said Solutia spokesman Dan Jenkins.
He said a legal agreement between Monsanto and Solutia places the responsibility for that leak on Monsanto.
But Monsanto's Young said there was no health threat by PCBs in local waterways.
"The tiny amounts of PCBs reportedly found in the Escambia River and bay pose no threat to human health, wildlife or the environment," Young said. "The lawsuit is without merit, and Monsanto will vigorously defend itself against it."
Recent fish samples taken from the middle of Escambia Bay by researchers at the University of West Florida found PCBs in mullet and other fish that were several times higher than state and federal thresholds.
Previous samples from the lower Escambia River prompted a health advisory for some fish caught there.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs include Pensacola-based Sam Bearman and Anniston, Ala.-based Donald Stewart. Stewart filed a successful multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against Monsanto related to PCB contamination in Anniston.
Bearman said cleanup of Escambia Bay and connected waterways is a top priority for the plaintiffs: "My clients have made it clear that is goal No. 1," he said.
2. Turmoil over toxins
*University researchers, attorneys eye PCBs in Escambia Bay while state health officials mum
High levels of a cancer-causing chemical in several fish found in the middle of Escambia Bay indicate that a health advisory about fish in the lower Escambia River may not go far enough.
Mullet, trout, croaker and sheepshead samples collected when the former Interstate 10 bridge was demolished show levels of PCBs that in many cases are several times higher than state and federal thresholds for the chemicals, according to University of West Florida researchers.
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are particularly troublesome pollutants because they don't break down readily and cleanup is elusive.
Studies show PCBs - industrial chemicals long-banned in the United States - cause cancer and have harmful effects on the endocrine, immune and nervous systems.
For some longtime Escambia Bay residents like Ernie Rivers, the samples confirm suspicions about the PCBs in local fish and underscore frustration about health advisories they say are too limited.
Rivers, of the Bream Fisherman Association, calls a previous state health advisory "ridiculous" because it was only issued for lower Escambia River, south of State Road 184.
"Like the mullet stay there," he said, referring to the fact that mullet spawn offshore.
But a state health official, who received a copy of the sampling data months ago, said there are no immediate plans to extend the health advisory.
"We're trying to get things set up to analyze more fish. It takes a long time to work samples up," said toxicologist Joe Sekerke of the Florida Department of Health.
The PCB samples were highest in mullet, a staple for many local seafood lovers.
One of UWF's four mullet samples measured 1,580 nanograms per gram of PCBs, compared to the federal threshold of 20 nanograms per gram and the state threshold of 50 nanograms per gram. All of the mullet samples were higher than state and federal limits.
In general, health officials and others urge people not to cut fish out of their diet, but instead to limit consumption of those species high in PCBs and mercury to avoid long-term health risks. Pregnant women, for example, are urged to eat two meals per week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury to get the nutritional benefits.
A previous UWF study showed elevated levels of PCBs in mullet, bass, oysters and crabs, mostly in those found in the lower Escambia River, upper Escambia Bay, Bayou Chico, Bayou Texar and Bayou Grande. That data prompted the Department of Health to issue health advisories for the lower Escambia River.
Information from the more recent samples was sent to all local, state and federal health and environmental officials.
"I just assumed that they would automatically extend the warning," said Dick Snyder, director of UWF's Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation.
But Sekerke, who is retiring at the end of June, said he wants more samples of fish and that the sampling must follow a particular protocol. He predicted the process will take at least three to four months.
If those samples indicate high levels, a warning could be posted on the department's Web site, he said. It's unlikely that signs would be posted near area waterways because signs often are removed or vandalized, prompting people to think the advisory has been lifted, he said.
While Snyder said the samples should not prompt people to stop eating seafood, he said it's important information for people deciding how much and what type of seafood to eat.
"It's information that people can use to decide how to live their lives," Snyder said.
Samples taken by UWF were from fish fillets without the skins, and the procedures used for transporting and categorizing the fish followed federal sampling and analysis guidelines. Snyder said samples from fish with the skins would produce even higher levels of PCBs.
UWF is taking sediment samples from the bay to chart PCBs and determine if some areas have higher levels than others. Snyder said he plans to post information about PCBs and local samples on a Web site by the end of the summer.
While UWF researchers are making the rounds to local fishing groups and others to explain their data, Pensacola attorney Samuel Bearman said he is poised to file a lawsuit in the next two weeks against Monsanto Co. and Solutia.
The pending lawsuit, which represents more than 50 homeowners along Escambia Bay, is related to the release of PCBs nearly 40 years ago from the former Monsanto plant that Solutia now operates in Gonzalez near the Escambia River, Bearman said.
Bearman said cleanup of the bay and connected waterways is the main goal of the lawsuit.
"If you're going to generate it, clean it up," Bearman said.
He is working with Alabama attorney Don Stewart on the lawsuit. Stewart was the lead attorney in a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit against Monsanto involving claims of PCB contamination by residents of Anniston, Ala.
"We've been aware that Mr. Stewart has been out recruiting for plaintiffs," Monsanto spokesman Glynn Young said in an e-mail. "Since no litigation has been filed yet, it's a little early for us to comment."
In 1969, a government laboratory found that the former Monsanto Co. was discharging 1 to 3 gallons of hydraulic fuel containing PCBs into the Escambia River a day. The toxic releases didn't stop until the early 1970s.
While the legal battle brews, some anglers are cutting back what they eat, while others remain unaware of the debate.
"I didn't know anything about that," said Noy Sarisun of Mobile, who fishes for crabs just about every day.
She was at Jim's Fish Camp near the mouth of the Escambia River last week to find more of the shellfish, which she sells to area wholesale seafood businesses.
Crabs were among those samples with high PCB levels in a previous study of catches from the Escambia River.
Fish camp owner Rick Sconiers watches about 200 people a week come and go, most of them in search of crabs, red fish, mullet, speckled trout and redfish.
His favorite is shellcracker, also called sunfish.
"I'm a product of the Panhandle," said Sconiers, who grew up fishing around the Pensacola area. He's owned his fish camp for 15 years.
"I'm not afraid to eat the fish," Sconiers said but added that he's cutting back to reduce his risk of exposure because of the PCB levels in local fish samples.
"I'd like to know the fish I'm catching are safe to eat. But you can't take every fish you catch to a lab," he said.
Longtime local fisherman Geoffrey Fox said previous studies on PCBs in local fish prompted him to cut back on how much he ate years ago.
"I've been fishing this river since 1970," he said, adding that he noticed a decline in the size of fish in the mid 1980s.
UWF's Snyder said he wants to get as much information out to area anglers and others so that people can make informed decisions about seafood. Because fish are migratory, he also wants to continue PCB research into the Gulf to determine how widespread the problem is.
His message is not to stop eating fish and shellfish: "Like anything else, moderation is often best. I'm certainly not going to stop eating seafood."
3. Comments on the Pensacola News Journal site
We should sue the EPA they were aware of these fish samples in the 80's.PNJ published the limit your fish intak in 1993.It's about time sombody said somthing.Back then Monsanto kept the money coming and they still would'nt say anything but solutia is not smart enough to pay the right people.This story is bigger than Willie and WD lets see if they can win the pulitzer prize for this one.Or will it be no coment while autism and cancer rates skyrocket around here.
They have duped the employees retirees and investors.These hot shot CEO's think it's funny they can dupe these old southern boys to work for nothing and screw up there own environment.They sleep real good on 500 dollar pillow case.
I hope somebody can do somthing!
Monsanto drained holding ponds into the river at night and during high water. The sample collectors came when they were told that nothing was being dumped. The injection wells were started by Monsanto and Solutia still uses them. We were told that the waste pumped into the ground would surface in the gulf several years later. Now the gulf has dead spots. Is this caused by the waste pumped by Monsanto?
6/7/2008 11:59:27 AM
Like they will do anything in the future to help with this problem. They the EPA will continue to allow big industries to pump whatever into the bays and rivers. And no one will be the wiser.Doctors tell you to eat more fish but why when they will just kill you quicker. If the government was run like it was suppose to these things would not happen. Its all about money and greed not whats good for americans.Who ever pads ones pockets the most is who wins.
Maybe we should all start sueing the shyt out of the federal government ,EPA, State and local health depts. Maybe if they had to get off some money they would start changing policies.
For all of our relatives who have died of cancer related deaths due to the toxins they allow to be pump dumped and spread all over the place in the name of economy.
6/7/2008 10:58:52 AM