State News

Vermont attorney general sues Monsanto over PCB contamination in schools


Though a number of other states have sued the company, Vermont is the first to sue on the grounds of damage to educational institutions.

By Emma Cotton/VTDigger

Attorney General Charity Clark has filed her first major lawsuit since taking office in January, taking on agrochemical giant Monsanto for alleged damage to the state’s natural resources and schools. 

According to Clark, the damage comes from Monsanto’s PCB products, which were made to use in household and construction goods such as paints, caulks, dyes and fireproofing substances, among others. PCBs have been linked to cancers and negative health impacts to the endocrine system, immune system, nervous system and reproductive system. 

“Monsanto manufactured, marketed, sold, and distributed PCBs while knowing that its products would cause significant, long-term damage in Vermont,” Clark said in a press release Monday. 

“This lawsuit seeks to hold Monsanto accountable for knowingly misleading the public about the harmful impacts of its products. The cost of cleaning up after Monsanto’s deception will be considerable and should be borne by the multibillion-dollar company that profited from the misconduct, not by Vermont taxpayers,” she said in the statement.

At a press conference Monday on the steps of the Chittenden Civil Division of the Vermont Superior Court in Burlington, Clark announced that her office filed the complaint in that court Friday. 

“We know that Vermont’s natural resources, including surface waters and aquatic wildlife are contaminated, and we know that Lake Champlain is severely contaminated,” she said, adding that the state has issued fish advisories for lake trout, smallmouth bass and yellow perch.

While other states have sued and settled cases against Monsanto, Vermont is the first state to sue for damage that has occurred in schools. The suit seeks to remedy harms to all schools in Vermont with traceable PCB contamination. 

Following the discovery of PCB contamination at Burlington High School in 2019 — which required the school to shutter and move operations to the abandoned Macy’s department store in downtown Burlington — the Vermont Legislature approved a statewide program to test all of the state’s 321 schools for PCB contamination. 

“So far, almost 50 schools have been tested,” Justin Kolber, chief of the environmental and public protection division in the Attorney General’s office, said at Monday’s press conference. “The testing continues, and we’re seeing around 30% of the schools coming back with elevated levels of PCBs.”

Last December, Burlington School District filed a separate lawsuit against Monsanto for the cost of rebuilding a new high school. 

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