Monsanto has agreed to pay up to $93 million to settle health and property damage claims by workers and people who lived near a now-shuttered plant in Nitro, W.Va., where the company once made an ingredient for the herbicide Agent Orange.
“We are pleased to resolve this matter and end any concerns about historic operations at the Nitro plant,” says Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge. In a joint statement with Monsanto, plaintiff attorney Stuart Calwell says “the settlements provide needed medical benefits and remediation services to the people of Nitro.”
The agreement settles a class-action suit filed in 2004 and a total of 200 separate single-plaintiff actions filed in 2007 and 2009. A West Virginia state court must hold a fairness hearing, planned for June, before the settlement takes effect.
Between 1949 and 1969, Monsanto’s Nitro plant made 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid, an active ingredient in Agent Orange. The suits allege that waste dioxins from the Nitro plant contaminated the town. Dioxins are associated with a variety of ill health effects, including cancer.
Under the terms of the agreement, Monsanto will pay $21 million to fund a medical monitoring program at a local hospital. Up to $63 million in additional money will be available over the program’s 30-year life. The program will cover “thousands” of current and former residents as well as workers at the plant, which made a variety of chemicals between 1929 and 2004. Monsanto also will pay up to $9 million to clean 4,500 homes that may be contaminated with dioxins.
Monsanto, which says the settlement will reduce earnings this year by $27 million, is a producer of genetically modified crop seeds and herbicides such as Roundup. Once a significant chemical maker, the firm spun off its chemical operations as Solutia in 1997. Monsanto took on responsibility for the legacy chemical operations after Solutia sought bankruptcy court protection in 2003.