Solutia sues 19 companies for help with PCB cleanup in Alabama

posted on:
June 7, 2003

author:
Staff

category:
Environmental

Solutia, Inc. has sued 19 companies alleging that they should help to pay for the environmental cleanup in Anniston, Alabama.

Defendants in the lawsuit, filed late Thursday, including Halliburton Co., FMC Corp., Phelps dodge Corp., McWane, Inc., Walter Industries, Inc., MeadWestvaco Corp., and Scientific Atlanta, Inc.

Several companies reached Friday by the Post-Dispatch said they could not comment because they hadn’t received a copy of the suit.

The majority of the companies named in the suit are successor companies, Solutia said.

Solutia’s lawsuit, also filed on behalf of the Pharmacia subsidiary of Pfizer, Inc., is separate from two class-action suits that have been filed against the company by Anniston-area residents.

In the earlier suits, the residents alleged that polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, produced by Solutia’s former parent, Monsanto Co., damaged their homes and health.

PCBs have been linked to cancer and other diseases as well as learning disorders. Their production was banned by Congress in the 1970’s.

Solutia, based in Town and Country, was the chemicals division of Monsanto, and Solutia is responsible for the PCB cleanup. Solutia still produces chemicals at an Anniston-area plant, but not PCBs have been made there since 1971.

In the new suit, Solutia said it and the federal Environmental Protection Agency found evidence of PCBs in locations that were uphill from the former Monsanto plant and outside the flood plain.

Some of the PCBs were found with traces of lead, cadmium, chromium and arsenic, which weren’t associated with Monsanto’s operations, Solutia said.

Solutia said it examined more than 70,000 pages of EPA documents. By using geological studies, the company said it found that some of the PCBs couldn’t have come from the Monsanto plant. Solutia executives, in a conference call Friday, said Anniston’s former claim as the “cast-iron-pope capital of the world” provided a clue: The industry used a lot of PCBs as well as some of the other elements and chemicals.

The pipe industry’s molds that contained PCBs were ground up and used as foundry sand, the executives contend. The contamination spread through runoffs, they said.

Solutia said its investigation began about 18 months ago, but it waited until the evidence was clear before filing suit.

About $18 million of the $54 million that Solutia has spent on the cleanup in Anniston has been used to remedy contamination by other companies, Solutia said.

Jeffry Quinn, the company’s general counsel, said the information from the investigation could be used to defend the company in the two PCB suits.

Jere Beasley, one of the lead lawyers in a federal class-action suit against Solutia, called Solutia’s suit a “desperation move.”

He said he won’t add other companies to the suit. “If we added those defendants at this point, we would be filing a frivolous lawsuit,” Beasley said. “If Solutia knows something that we don’t know, then certainly, they’ve withheld it from us in discovery.”

The suit won’t disrupt Solutia’s cleanup efforts, a company spokesman said.

In trading Friday, shares of Solutia rose 24 cents, or 9.8 percent, closing at $2,70.

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