We're a hawk on the issues.

Small WV Town Wins Lawsuit Against Monsanto’s Polluting Practices

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld the verdict in a case that pitted a small town against mega-corporation Monsanto.  The company has been ordered to pay $93 million in damages to clean-up homes and provide medical follow-up in Nitro WV after residents filed suit claiming that a nearby chemical manufacturing plant, operated by Monsanto, exposed them to a form of dioxin, an herbicide that is part of the chemical cocktail Agent Orange.

According to the 14-page decision issued by the court of appeals, the judges found “no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error” in the lower court’s ruling and ordered the previous settlement agreement against Monsanto upheld.

“In sum, we believe the record demonstrates that the settlement is based on objective evidence and was reached only after extensive discovery,” the Supreme Court’s majority, which represented four out of five of the judges, stated in their written decision.

The case against Monsanto stems from company’s long-term operation of a trichlorophenol plant in Nitro, a small town of 7,000 residents that is part of West Virginia’s ‘Chemical Valley’.  Residents claim that while the plant was under Monsanto’s control for many years and  until the mid-1990’s, the plant disposed dioxin-laden waste through an illegal practice called pit burning, sending dioxin into the atmosphere and polluting nearby homes.

Dioxin is one of the “dirty dozen” of chemicals, according to the World Health Organization, and can remain in the body long after exposure due the fact it can be stored in fatty tissues.  The chemical also can enter the food stream through farm animals exposed to the toxic substance.  Exposed individuals can face a number of serious health consequences, including liver damage, immune issues and cancers.

Many of the Nitro residents had been exposed to dioxin through the pit burning for many years, placing them at greater health risk from the chemical.

In speaking of the landmark case, Judge Swopes praised Stuart Calwell’s legal team for deciding to take on David vs. Goliath battle to force Monsanto to pay for the damage done in Nitro.  He said the lawyer’s took on the case on behalf of the people of Nitro at “great expense in time and money” and in an “almost solitary course to make the [Monsanto] defendants accountable for their actions.”

Photo Credit: arbyreed via Creative Commons

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.