Cerro, Pharmacia named in another suit over Sauget pollution

Kelly Holleran Jun. 30, 2010, 2:57pm

Another Illinois resident whose relative died after being exposed to hazardous substances near Sauget has filed a lawsuit over the release of those substances.

Wanda Hurtt filed a lawsuit June 18 against Cerro Flow Products, Inc., Pharmacia Corporation, Solutia, Inc., Pfizer and Monsanto AG Products.

Hurtt is represented by many of the same lawyers who filed multiple similar complaints last year -- Gregory A. Cade and H. Gregory Harp of Birmingham, Ala and Paul G. Schoen of Schoen, Walton, Telken and Foster in East St. Louis. Troy E. Walton of Schoen, Walton, Telken and Foster in East St. Louis has also joined the group of attorneys to represent Hurtt.

In her complaint, Hurtt argues 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.

As a result of her exposure to the PCBs, the recently deceased Annie Pearl Able developed cancer and died, according to the complaint.

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

Not only are the PCBs dangerous to humans, but they also are hazardous to the environment, the suit states.

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, Hurtt claims.

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, Hurtt alleges.

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.

Hurtt says the defendants knew about the potential consequences of the chemicals' releases, but attempted to conceal health risks and property contamination from the public.

"To this day, one or more of the Monsanto Defendants and their consultants are actively engaged in a campaign of deception to mislead the residents and real property owners of communities adjacent to the Release Sites, including the Plaintiffs, into believing that the Substances do not present, and have never presented, any threat to the residents or to the real property of those adjacent communities," the complaint says.

Claims in the Hurtt's complaint include negligence and strict liability.

In her two-count complaint, Hurtt is seeking a judgment in excess of $100,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-304.

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