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Poisoned By PCBs: Legacy of the Cover-up

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

In recent years the EPA has collected thousands of blood, soil, and water samples in Anniston, many of which show high levels of PCBs and other hazardous materials. So far, the soil tests have turned up eight residential properties with PCB levels which exceed EPA's emergency cleanup standard, including one residential property with PCB levels nearly three times the EPA's emergency standard. The agency is still taking samples and has not yet formally listed Anniston as a Superfund site.

Monsanto recently spun off its Industrial Chemicals division, including the Anniston plant, to Solutia, Inc. Unfortunately, Solutia has also chosen to stonewall, insisting that PCBs do not pose a risk to human health. In June 2000, a Solutia spokesperson told Chemical Week: "The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence suggests there are no chronic human health effects associated with exposure to PCBs." Not according to the U.S. EPA, which classifies PCBs as a probable human carcinogen.

The Solutia plant in Anniston is still in operation, and continues to discharge hazardous chemicals. According to the federal Toxic Release Inventory, the plant released 8,953 pounds of 4-nitrophenol, benzene, biphenyl and cumene into the environment in 1998. Over 4,000 lbs of those releases were fugitive air emissions of benzene, a chemical known to cause leukemia in humans. An additional 7,053 pounds of biphenyl were transferred offsite to be landfilled.

In 1996, Monsanto launched an aggressive effort to buy out Anniston property owners who owned heavily contaminated land. The company has purchased whole neighborhoods in the town, paying residents to relocate. They have bulldozed the houses and put up chain link fencing around the remaining contaminated dirt.

Some residents have refused Monsanto's money, preferring to take their chances with a lawsuit. Over 4,600 residents of Anniston have filed personal injury or property damage lawsuits against Monsanto/Solutia. Most of these suits are still ongoing. Others don't want to endure a cleanup, which would be conducted by the company. Many fear a cleanup would only make the problem worse or simply don't want Monsanto on their property.

For the latest news from Anniston, see the Anniston Star's website. The site includes an archive of PCB articles, and a timeline of Anniston's 72-year history with PCBs.

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last updated: march.27.2009

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