Residents living near a now defunct Monsanto plant in Nitro, West Virginia demand cleanup of toxic legacy
Reports indicate that Monsanto has reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought by US residents who say they were poisoned by chemicals used in the manufacturing of the Agent Orange in their town of Nitro, West Virginia.
The Guardian reports:
The long-running suit was brought by residents living near a now defunct Monsanto plant in Nitro, West Virginia that between 1949 and 1971 produced the agricultural herbicide 2,4,5 trichlorophenoxyacidic acid, a key ingredient in Agent Orange. [...]
The suit – filed on behalf of tens of thousands of people who lived, worked and went to school in Nitro after 1949 – claims that Monsanto spread toxic substances including dioxins, which have been linked to cancer, all over the town.
The plaintiffs say they were exposed to levels of dioxins 100,000 times higher than acceptable levels. "Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and is so hazardous to human health that no "safe" level of exposure has been established," the suit claims.
It demands ongoing testing for at least 5,000 people who may have been affected by exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The Charleston Gazette reports that the judge in the case, Judge Derek Swope, had raised some questions about the agreement including concerns the man Monsanto suggested administer the medical monitoring program is a former defense expert for the company.
The Charleston Gazette adds:
If a settlement is not agreed upon on Friday, a more extensive jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday, Swope said. Six jurors and six alternates would have to be selected out of the 28-person jury pool.
Mediation efforts last October and December failed to produce a settlement.
Swope warned lawyers on Thursday that a gag order, preventing lawyers from talking with the press about the case, is still being strictly enforced. The judge sealed all documents pertaining to the proposed settlement. He would not talk to a reporter after Thursday's hearing.
Monsanto vows $93M to Nitro residents
Medical tests, house cleanup part of class-action settlement
WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Chemical giant Monsanto has agreed to pay millions of dollars to test thousands of current and former Nitro residents for disease and to clean up their homes.
Under the tentative agreement to a huge class-action lawsuit, Monsanto will provide class-members up to $93 million. The company has agreed to a 30-year medical monitoring program with a primary fund of $21 million for testing, and up to $63 million in additional funding, if necessary.
Monsanto also will pay $9 million for professional services to have class members' homes cleaned. It also has agreed to pay court-approved legal fees incurred over the past seven years.
Circuit Judge Derek Swope mentioned the proposed settlement in a hearing Thursday in Putnam Circuit Court, and the agreement was officially announced in court Friday.
In their huge class-action lawsuit filed in 2004, Nitro residents said Monsanto unsafely burned dioxin wastes and spread contaminated soot and dust across the city, polluting homes with unsafe levels of the chemical.
The residents' lawsuit sought medical monitoring for at least 5,000 - and perhaps as many as 80,000 -- current and former Nitro residents.
For more than 50 years, the Monsanto plant churned out herbicides, rubber products and other chemicals. The plant's production of the defoliant Agent Orange created dioxin as a toxic chemical byproduct.
On Friday, Swope approved the proposed settlement, which he said lawyers had worked on until 1 a.m. that morning.
Charleston lawyer Thomas Urban, who represents some Nitro residents, filed a motion Friday after the hearing, raising questions about the sufficiency of the settlement.
Among other things, Urban asked why the settlement sets a $9 million amount for cleanup, when an expert for the residents said cleanup could cost between $945 million and $3.82 billion.Source: http://wvgazette.com/News/201202230090