Source: http://www.southcoasttoday.com, May 21, 2014
By: Robert Barboza
The Town of Westport and the Westport Community Schools announced in a May 13 press release that it has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Company, the manufacturer of the building products containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used in the construction of the Westport Middle School. The town is seeking to recover the costs of removing the PCBs “from school buildings in Westport” where the cancer-causing construction materials were used, said the release issued by Superintendent of Schools Ann Dargon.
PCBs are man-made chemicals commonly used from the early 1950s to the late 1970s in numerous industrial and commercial applications in the construction and electrical industries. The PCB-containing materials were used in caulking, insulation, electrical transformers, and florescent light ballasts in thousands of public and commercial buildings throughout the country during that time period, with Monsanto being the only known U.S. manufacturer of the materials.
According to Supt. Dargon, “The Westport Middle School was completed in 1969, and during its construction, PCB-containing materials, including window and door caulking and light ballasts, were used. PCBs can migrate out of these products and into adjoining masonry, flooring, walls, and soil and can be released into the air causing danger to those who come into contact with it.”
The PCBs were first discovered in May 2011 during materials testing conducted as part of a school window replacement project. Tests found PCB levels in the air and on various interior and exterior surfaces “at levels that far exceeded minimal safety standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” the superintendent also said in the press release. A school-wide cleaning and remediation effort has already cost the town more than $3 million, and quarterly PCB monitoring is continuing at a cost of about $50,000 per year. Several areas of the building remain off-limits to students who are at the greatest risk from PCB exposure.
The EPA has determined that PCBs are probable human carcinogens, and may have toxic effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems of those with prolonged exposure to the chemicals.
The two town entities are asserting in their U.S. District Court lawsuit filing that “Monsanto had knowledge of the dangers of this product going back decades but failed to warn of its dangers,” the press release concludes. The town is being represented on this matter by Attorney Richard Sandman of Rodman, Rodman, & Sandman, P.C. of Malden, in cooperation with attorneys in Texas and New York on behalf of clients in those states.
A Monsanto spokesman was quoted in the local media as saying the lawsuits were without merit, and that his company was not the only manufacturer of PCBs contained in hundreds of products during the nearly three decades of use. Not long after the discovery of PCBs at WMS, school officials said that testing had been conducted at other schools in town, and had not found any other potential exposure sites in any of the buildings.
“Students, teachers, administrators, and other individuals who come into regular contact with PCBs at the levels found in the Westport schools may be at an increased risk of contracting these and other serious illnesses…”
Ann Marie Dargon
Westport Superintendent of Schools