Sauget residents file class action over hazardous waste

A group of Illinois residents who live in or near Sauget have filed a class-action lawsuit over the release of various hazardous substances that they claim has created a severe health risk and has contaminated their properties.

Lead class plaintiffs Vernon Lee Anderson Sr., Ernestine Lawrence, Katie Burnett-Smith, Martha Emily Young, Marcella Phillips and Bernice Laverne Collins argue that three release sites – a 90-acre landfill operated by Sauget and Co., a 314-acre W.G. Krummrich Plant and property owned by Cerro Flow Products – have released PCBs and other various substances, including dioxins and furans, into the atmosphere for more than 70 years.

Residents fear they will develop a deadly disease from the PCBs, which have been shown to result in toxic effects in the brain and nervous system and in low birth rates and birth defects.

"According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a lifetime dose of one milligram of PCBs is sufficient to cause cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases," the suit filed Feb. 10 in St. Clair County Circuit Court states. "According to the World Health Organization, there is not safe level of exposure to PCBs."

Dioxins and furans are also known to be dangerous and to create significant health problems through inhalation, ingestion, dermal absorption and ingestion of homegrown produce.

In addition to the health risk, the residents claim the PCBs have contaminated property within a two-mile radius of the release sites, waterways and groundwater, the suit states.

The releases began after the W.G. Krummrich Plant, which is also referred to as the Monsanto Facility in the complaint, began producing, storing and disposing of PCBs at its facility, the residents claim.

In fact, "more PCBs were produced at the Monsanto Facility than at any other site in the United States, and perhaps even the free world," the suit states.

Cerro, which owns land adjacent to the Monsanto Facility, recycles copper. Part of that work entails scrapping PCB transformers, draining wastewater and PCB oil into the Dead Creek and landfilling substances on its facility. In turn, those activities cause large quantities of the toxic substances to be released into the environment, according to the complaint.

At Sauget and Co., millions of tons of the toxic substances were disposed of in its landfill, residents allege.

The combined activities of the three companies released the deadly substances into the environment through smokestack emissions, wind erosion, smoke from fires in waste piles and airborne releases, according to the complaint.

The class is divided into two sets of plaintiffs – a medical monitoring class and a remediation class.

Both the medical monitoring and the remediation class plaintiffs are asking the court issue an order to prevent the Monsanto Facility, Cerro and Sauget and Co. from releasing any more PCBs or other hazardous substances, plus a judgment for costs of the suit and other relief the court deems just.

Because of their increased risk for disease, the medical monitoring class plaintiffs are also asking the court order the defendants to pay for medical monitoring and order that the rights of the plaintiffs are reserved for any claims for damages they may sustain if they are diagnosed with disease because of their exposure.

Remediation class plaintiffs are seeking a judgment against the defendants that forces them to conduct an investigation to determine the degree to which the PCBs and substances have contaminated properties, an assessment to determine how the defendants can remediate and remove all traces of PCBs and other hazardous substances and the removal of the PCBs and substances from their property.

They are represented by Robert Leslie Palmer, Gregory A. Cade, H. Gregory Harp, Christina E. Wall and Mark L. Rowe, of Birmingham, Ala.

Paul G. Schoen of Schoen, Walton, Telken and Foster in East St. Louis and James L. "Larry" Wright of Austin will also be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-0073.

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