In March of 2015, San Diego became the latest city to file a lawsuit against Monsanto for the pollution of the city and surrounding areas. Extensive evidence of PCBs and other harmful contaminants were found in the Bay area. They primarily showed up in bay sediments and the meat of lobsters, fish, and other marine species. The concern for the city of San Diego stems further than the health of its citizens and the environment. The tourist industry could be severely damaged if travelers perceive San Diego as a more dangerous or unclean area to visit, thus engendering possible serious financial repercussions.
San Diego filed the lawsuit claiming that Monsanto created a public nuisance by producing PCBs. This claim is different than the majority of cases filed against Monsanto. Other cities, such as Anniston, Alabama, have historically claimed protection under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 that was created to decontaminate the most polluted areas of the U.S. Public nuisance claims against corporations causing pollution do not have a high success rate. However, the fact that Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs for commercial purposes after World War II creates a solid foundation for San Diego’s claim.
Although Monsanto stopped the manufacturing of PCBs in 1977, the stable and persistent molecular structure of PCBs allows for there still to be thousands of tons of the chemical still in the environment. Furthermore, PCBs bioaccumulate, meaning that if a fish contaminated with PCBs was consumed by a person, that person would be more contaminated than the fish. The PCBs are not soluble in fat and therefore concentrate over time, increasing the likelihood of causing cancer or other serious health problems.
If San Diego is successful in their lawsuit against Monsanto, the company may be held responsible for the damages that Monsanto PCBs caused in other locations. The expense, of which, would be substantial as environmental cleanup measures are generally long, costly processes.