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Solutia Inc. (formerly the Monsanto Co.) has agreed to pay $40 million to settle a lawsuit brought by nearly 1,600 residents of Anniston, Alabama. The company was accused of poisoning the community with hazardous chemicals for decades and then covering it up after becoming aware of the problem.
The chemical contamination allegedly was spread by the Monsanto Co., which manufactured PCBs in Anniston until 1972. Monsanto changed its name to Solutia Inc. in 1997.
The average payment to plaintiffs will be about $12,000, according to Ralph Knowles, an attorney for the Anniston residents. The minimum amount to be paid to each plaintiff, including about 500 minors, will be $5,000.
As part of the settlement, the company also has agreed to pay $2.5 million to move plaintiffs who live close to the chemical plant, $3.5 million to assist residents exposed to PCBs, and $1 million as part of the court costs.
The company said it did not admit guilt, taking this action instead as a neighborly gesture. ``It demonstrates that we're committed to the community and it permits us to focus our attention on ... concerns closer to home,'' stated Tom Bistline, the company's attorney.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed that company documents showed Monsanto knew the chemical was hazardous by the 1960s but continued to manufacture it without proper safeguards.
The company did not deny the chemical escaped from the plant to the water supply. But it claims there was no proof any residents were harmed.
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were manufactured in Anniston from 1927 through 1972 for use as insulation in electrical equipment. The government banned production in the late '70s amid questions about possible health risks.
PCBs-laden wastewater and storm water from the plant emptied into a drainage ditch and creek in a poor section of Anniston. From there, the water ran to Choccolocco Creek and Lake Logan Martin.
A judge must still approve the settlement, and a hearing has been set for this week.