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NH Sues Manufacturers Over PCB Pollution

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020   

CONCORD, N.H. -- Conservation groups are praising a New Hampshire lawsuit filed Tuesday that goes after the manufacturers of the toxic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs. The chemicals, which were banned in the 1970s, still are turning up in fish and other wildlife across the state.

New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Allen Brooks, chief of the state Department of Justice's Environmental Protection Bureau, said the state is suing Monsanto and two other companies now because new documents have surfaced that show money trumped their concern for the environment.

"Some of the internal memos will talk about the contamination of human food, killing of some marine species," he said, "but at the end of the day, similar internal memos will say, 'Well, but there's a lot of profit to be made.'"

Monsanto said in a statement that the company should not be held liable because it stopped producing PCBs 40 years ago and did not produce or dump them in New Hampshire. In the past few months, the company has spent more than $700 million to settle similar lawsuits. The New Hampshire suit says PCBs still foul about 80 square miles of ocean and 46 bodies of water in the state, including parts of the Souhegan River and Squam Lake, where the state has posted warnings against eating the fish.

Tiffany Grade, the Squam Lakes biologist for the Loon Preservation Committee, said PCBs bioaccumulate, which means animals and humans that ingest them can't clear them -- and they've been detected in failed nests across the state.

"Despite the fact PCBs have not been used for so long," she said, "they are still in the environment, still working through the food chain and still causing problems."

Catherine Corkery, director of the Sierra Club's New Hampshire chapter, said her organization wants the companies to take responsibility for the cleanup.

"The manufacturer has no solution of containment," she said. "That's the crime that's going on here; they know exactly what it does to human health and to the environment."

The state has said it is seeking the "financial resources necessary to remedy the harm that PCBs have caused to the environment."

The lawsuit is to be posted at courts.state.nh.us.


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