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Poisoned By PCBs: Deny and Delay

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 anniston's PCBs in the press

On May 6, 1970, three Monsanto employees met with Joe Crockett, Technical Staff Director of the Alabama Water Improvement Commission. This was the first time that the company discussed PCB pollution with a regulator. Monsanto's agenda for the meeting was to "familiarize Mr. Crockett with the situation regarding Aroclor wastes and their reported pollution potential and, secondly, to build confidence that Monsanto intends to cooperate with governmental agencies to define the effects of Aroclor on the environment." (view entire document)

The company later agreed to submit status reports to Crockett about their efforts to reduce PCB emissions from the plant. In these reports, and other correspondence of the early 1970s, Monsanto sought to convince regulators that the company had responded to the problem immediately upon learning about the potential danger, and that they were in control of the situation. (view entire document)

An October 1971 report from Monsanto to Crockett claimed that levels of PCBs released from the plant were declining: "Losses of PCBs have been steadily reduced to weekly averages of 0.2-0.9 lbs./day with a strong downward trend still apparent." The report called a water sample collected by the U.S. EPA that had found high PCB levels "non-typical." (view entire document)

In reality, Monsanto was struggling to reduce - or even to gain control of - PCB emissions at Anniston. A month before the report to Crockett claiming steady reductions, a confidential memo from Monsanto executives at company headquarters in St. Louis expressed concern that the "extreme efforts" to reduce PCB "losses" weren't working:

Quoted Text
(view entire document)

This document shows that, while the company claimed in its reports to the Alabama Water Improvement Commission (AWIC) that PCB emissions were steadily declining, officials at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis knew this was not true. The company deliberately suppressed data that showed the Anniston problem to be worse than their reports indicated. (view entire document)

Nor did Monsanto have any real confidence that their efforts to slow discharges would work: "Based on some indications (and much hope), by September, the actions above may approach the present plant objective of 10 ppb of PCB's in 700 gpm (or 0.1 #/day)." (view entire document)

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last updated: march.27.2009

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