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Poisoned By PCBs: Regulators Look the Other Way

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

Obviously, Monsanto was eager to keep the truth about Anniston secret. What is perhaps more disturbing is the fact that the Alabama Water Improvement Commission had the same intention. Monsanto first met with Joe Crockett in May of 1970. According to a summary written by one of the Monsanto employees present at the meeting: "Mr. Crockett was most appreciative of Monsanto's approach to the problem and the fact that Monsanto came to him. He alluded that our action would produce a situation that was beneficial to the protection of both the Monsanto and AWIC positions." (view entire document)

In the same meeting, according to the Monsanto employee's summary, Crockett urged Monsanto and its employees to keep a tight lid on the situation:

Quoted Text
(view entire document)

The Monsanto employee's summary concluded that "the full cooperation of the AWIC to reach the above objectives on a confidential basis can be anticipated."

At a follow-up meeting in August 1970, Crockett reportedly said he would "try to handle the problem quietly without release of the information to the public at this time." (view entire document) At a meeting almost three months later, according to the Monsanto employee's internal report, Crockett promised that PCB effluent levels "would be held confidential by the Technical Staff and would not be available to the public until or unless Monsanto released it." (view entire document)

It is clear that although Monsanto withheld information from Crockett about levels of PCB discharges, the AWIC official willingly went along with and even encouraged Monsanto's desire to keep the existence of PCB contamination a secret.

In November 1971, three months after Monsanto stopped making PCBs at Anniston, Crockett arranged (and attended) a meeting between Monsanto and the U.S. EPA's regional office. The U.S. Department of Justice had recently announced that it planned to sue Monsanto for violations of the Federal Refuse Act due to the PCB dumping in Anniston. EPA was charged with making recommendations to the Justice Department about the suit, so Monsanto seized the opportunity to do as much damage control as possible.

Monsanto sent the Anniston plant manager, a company doctor and a spokesman for its Industrial Chemicals division to the meeting. Afterward, according to an internal company memo, the Monsanto representatives were confident that they had convinced EPA that dredging the local creek was "undesirable" and that the company was taking all possible steps to reduce emissions of PCBs from the plant. They were also confident that they had been able to convince the EPA to recommend against the suit. They reported: "The entire atmosphere of the meeting was favorable, including the lunch that followed it." (view entire document)

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last updated: march.27.2009

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