A third group of Illinois residents who live in or near Sauget have filed a lawsuit over the release of various hazardous substances they claim have created a severe health risk and have contaminated their properties.
The 19 plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed June 11 against Cerro Flow Products, Inc., Pharmacia Corporation, Solutia, Inc., Pfizer and Monsanto AG Products are the third group of residents to file a complaint against the companies this year. The first was a class action lawsuit filed in February and the second is a lawsuit involving 21 plaintiffs filed June 5. Both are nearly identical to the June 11 complaint.
In all complaints, plaintiffs 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.
Some of the plaintiffs in the June 11 lawsuit say they have developed breast cancer and other deadly diseases as a result of their exposure to 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 states. "According to the World Health Organization, there is not a safe level of exposure to PCBs."
Dioxins and furans, which were also released at the site, according to the complain, are also known to be dangerous and to create significant health problems through inhalation, ingestion, dermal absorption and ingestion of homegrown produce.
The remaining plaintiffs in the June 11 complaint who have not experienced health problems say the PCBs have damaged their property.
For example, the chemicals released by the companies discharge into surface waters, resulting in the contamination of soil and dust. They are also discharged into wastewater, causing water and soil to become contaminated, the suit claims.
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 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.
Plaintiffs say the defendants knew about the potential consequences of the chemicals' releases, but attempted to conceal health risks and property contamination from the public.
"One or more of the Monsanto Defendants intentionally misled the public about the dangerous and hazardous nature of the Substances that were being released from the Release Sites," the complaint says. "In this effort, they conspired with their agent, Industrial Bio-Test Labs of Northbrook, Illinois, to falsely certify that the Substances being released from the Release Sites were not carcinogenic, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. Ultimately, IBT was at the center of one of the most far-reaching scandals in modern science, as investigations conducted by the Untied States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration demonstrated that thousands of IBT studies were fraudulent."
Claims in the June 11 complaint include negligence, strict liability, nuisance, battery and trespass.
In the seven-count suit, plaintiffs are seeking a judgment in excess of $800,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.
They are represented by the same group of lawyers who filed the February and June 5 complaints -- 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.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-309.