Plants Face Potential Penalties for Releasing Toxins

For the second time in three months, a West Virginia court has failed to agree upon a settlement in the class-action lawsuit against the company Monsanto, reports news website In the lawsuit, the company is accused of polluting schools, homes and land in Nitro, West Virginia. The previous attempt at arbitration took place in October. This class-action lawsuit, filed by citizens of Nitro, cites severe medical problems and significant land damage as just two of the harms that resulted from the plant’s pollution.

Plants Face Potential Penalties for Releasing Toxins

The alleged pollution took place near a chemical plant run by Monsanto. Nitro residents claim that the plant, which closed in 2004, was responsible for contaminating the city’s water and residential areas with toxic compounds known as dioxins. Between 5,000 and 80,000 of Nitro’s former and current residents are seeking compensation, with emphasis on medical care. The large number of plaintiffs involved in the class-action suit is a result of a 2008 decision to combine two similar cases.

The Monsanto case is now awaiting trial, with jury selection slated to start in January. Stressing the significance of the case, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, Stuart Calwell, stated that Nitro’s residents just want their town back and safe.

From 1949 until its closing in 2004, Monsanto’s Nitro-based plant manufactured the potent herbicidal ingredient 2,4,5-T. Produced for nearly 30 years, 2,4,5-T was later discontinued due to toxicity. Monsanto’s plant is also responsible for producing Agent Orange, a chemical used in herbicidal warfare by the U.S. military during the Vietnam conflict.

Harris County, Texas

In another recent lawsuit involving dioxin pollution, a Texas county is seeking retribution from a group of companies thought to have allowed dioxins from an industrial waste pit to seep into the San Jacinto River for over 45 years. Because the San Jacinto River empties into Galveston Bay, it is likely that the dioxins found in the bay are also a result of the same industrial waste.

Named defendants in the suit are International Paper Company, Waste Management of Texas, Inc., Waste Management, Inc. and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation. Lawyers for Harris County are asking that the defense be fined the maximum amount allowed under Texas law. If the court decides in the county’s favor, the defendants will be required to pay $25,000 a day for every day since the pollution began.

Constituting one of the state’s biggest pollution problems, these industrial waste pits are located on 20 acres of land along the river’s western bank. Of the fish samples found by the pit, an alarming 95 percent were found to be severely contaminated, reports Houston news website

The extreme levels of toxicity prompted the county to build fences and erect warning signs in an effort to keep residents out of harm’s way. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added the county’s industrial waste pits to its Superfund National Priorities List.

If awarded compensation, Harris County intends to put the money to good use. Half the money will go toward the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The county plans to split the remainder between assisting the EPA with on-site remediation and funding educational campaigns on the dangers of dioxin.

The Dangers of Dioxin

Dioxins are highly toxic chemical compounds that result as by-products of industrial processes, and their dangers are well documented. Dioxins are stored in body fat, meaning they can accumulate in tissue over time. Because of this, the EPA states that no level of exposure is safe.

The website for the EPA states, “Dioxins have been characterized by EPA as likely human carcinogens and are anticipated to increase the risk of cancer at background levels of exposure.” Studies have found correlations between dioxin exposure and major female reproductive concerns, such as hormonal changes, endometriosis, birth defects and infertility. The toxin is also an immunosuppressant, making those exposed more susceptible to illness.

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If you or a loved one has suffered exposure to toxic chemicals, such as dioxin, there is only a brief period of time during which you can file for compensation. For a free consultation, contact our experienced team of lawyers today. Our attorneys will discuss your legal rights and options and ensure that you are well informed regarding the best course of action.

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