Share this


Bruce Wallace

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Solutia Inc. and Monsanto Co. have agreed to pay roughly $700 million to settle claims by more than 20,000 Anniston, Ala., residents over PCB contamination, plaintiffs attorneys said.\r\n\r\nThe agreement, which will end a long-running trial in state court over decades-old pollution from a chemical plant in the east Alabama city, includes payments to homeowners and cash to fund a PCB research laboratory, lawyers for the residents said in a statement. \r\n\r\nThe two companies said the settlement calls for $600 million in cash. Monsanto will pay $390 million, Solutia will pay $50 million and the rest will be covered by insurance, according to a statement from Monsanto. \r\n\r\nCosts for clean-up, prescription drug and other programs detailed in the agreement will push the total amount past $700 million, said Stacy Smith, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs' attorneys. Another plaintiff's attorney, Jere Beasley, said the total would surpass $800 million. \r\n\r\nJurors already had awarded more than $100 million in verdicts against the companies in the trial, which began more than 1 1/2 years ago. Experts expected the judgments to go much higher in the trial, which was expected to last months more. \r\n\r\nThe deal also avoids a federal trial set for this fall over contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls, a once-common electrical insulator banned in the 1970s amid health concerns. \r\n\r\n""We are glad to have this litigation behind us as it removes a burden for the company, its employees and stakeholders; and the community of Anniston, Alabama,"" Solutia Chairman and CEO John C. Hunter said in a statement. \r\n\r\nSt. Louis-based Solutia, in a quarterly financial report last week, said it was considering filing for bankruptcy partly because of the economic costs of environmental lawsuits. The settlement ""puts us in a better position to address upcoming liabilities we face,"" Solutia spokesman Glenn Ruskin said {August 20]. \r\n\r\nThe Anniston plant made PCBs near a neighborhood in west Anniston for decades while operating as Monsanto. St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. has also gone through a series of corporate transitions in recent years, including a time as a subsidiary of Pharmacia Corp., but is now a stand-alone firm Pharmacia was recently acquired by Pfizer Inc. \r\n\r\nRobert Roden, an attorney for homeowners, said internal documents showed the company was aware of health hazards related to PCBs for decades and did nothing to warn the public. \r\n\r\nThe lawyers' statement said that along with payments to homeowners, the companies had agreed to fund a medical clinic and research center that would provide some free prescription medicines, health exams and a prescription drug program from Pfizer. \r\n\r\nThe clinic is a ""very big deal"" for Anniston residents, according to Brendan DeMelle, an analyst with the Environmental Working Group in Washington. \r\n\r\nA federal judge in Birmingham recently approved an agreement reached between Solutia and the Environmental Protection Agency for a cleanup and studies of the contamination. \r\n \r\n\r\nAssociate Press |