San Mateo County and nine of its cities and towns filed a lawsuit against the now-defunct Monsanto Corporation to recoup the costs of removing toxic chemicals the company allegedly left across the county.
The lawsuit alleges that Monsanto, the creator of the herbicide Roundup, knowingly contaminated the county with polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs, an organic chlorine compound that has been determined to be both carcinogenic and a pollutant.
The county and the cities and towns of Atherton, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo and Woodside filed the lawsuit Thursday, April 22, alleging that PCB contamination is common across the Bay Area, including Redwood City Harbor.
"There's no reason in the world why our taxpayers should have to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars we need to spend to prevent further PCB pollution and contamination," San Mateo County Attorney John Nibbelin said in a statement Friday, April 22. "That's Monsanto's responsibility, and that's why we're taking them to court."
PCBs are poisoning fish and wildlife, disrupting businesses and recreation, and threatening the health of residents throughout the county, according to the county's statement.
The U.S. government banned the production of PCBs in 1978. Monsanto was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG in 2018 after being embroiled in multiple controversies over its chemical and biotechnology products, which were criticized as dangerous to environmental and public health. Monsanto was dissolved as a company that year as part of the sale.
In June 2020, Bayer agreed to pay more than $10 billion in settlements involving Monsanto products like Roundup and PCBs.
PCB contamination in the San Francisco Bay has been so severe that the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has advised some people not to eat certain types of fish caught in it, according to the county's statement. Everyone is advised not to eat the skin and fatty tissue of any fish caught in the Bay.
The complaint filed by the 10 jurisdictions can be found here.