science environment

Portland, Port Join Settlement With Monsanto Over PCBs Contamination

By Monica Samayoa (OPB)
June 24, 2020 10:26 p.m.

The City of Portland joins over 2,500 other government entities in reaching a proposed nationwide multi-million-dollar class settlement Wednesday with the agricultural chemical giant Monsanto.

The Port of Portland and the cities of Tacoma and Spokane were among the other Northwest governments to join in proposing the $550 million settlement in a California federal court. The settlement would resolve the nationwide claims that Monsanto is responsible for contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.


Since March 2015, over a dozen lawsuits have been filed seeking recovery costs for stormwater and environmental contamination due to PCBs. Some local governments said they’d already spent millions of dollars cleaning up the toxic contaminant.

“The city and port districts and many other cities nationwide have had to spend a lot of resources in testing our stormwater collection system, tracking sources of PCBs in our stormwater collection system and cleaning up those PCBs,” City of Portland Attorney Karen Moynahan said.

The governments suing Monsanto said they had evidence that the company became aware of how toxic and dangerous PCBs were while manufacturing them, and that it concealed that information.

“Today, we are holding Monsanto accountable for its reckless actions that caused harm to our community,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a prepared statement. “The impacts to PCBs on our community are not quantifiable, but this settlement is one way to address decades worth of harm.”


PCBs are present in stormwater, stormwater and wastewater systems, water bodies, sediment, natural resources, fish and wildlife. Once present in the environment, they don’t easily breakdown

The toxic chemical has been known to have harmful effects to human health. One of the most common ways PCBs enter the human body is through the consumption of fish.

Monsanto was the only company in the country to make PCBs from the 1930s until 1977. Federal regulators banned PCBs in 1979 but the chemical is still found in the environment today.

In Portland, PCBs contaminate the Lower Willamette River, the Columbia Slough, the Portland Harbor Superfund site and are found in fish in the area.

Port of Portland's Executive Director Curtis Robinhold said in a press release statement that the plan is to use the settlement funds for ongoing contamination cleanup.

The City of Portland intends to focus settlement funds towards Black, Indigenous, and communities of color that have been disproportionately burdened by both the contamination and the need for environmental cleanup. The City will continue to engage with community groups to inform this work.

The city of Seattle, which has been part of the litigation against Monsanto, chose not to be part of the settlement. City officials said they have a very strong case against Monsanto and are pursuing their own lawsuit.

Monsanto did not respond in time to requests for comment.