The West Virginia State Supreme Court finalized a big blow to the biotech giant Monsanto in August, finishing a settlement causing Monsanto to pay $93 million to the tiny town of Nitro, West Virginia for poisoning citizens with Agent Orange chemicals.
After years of litigation those living near the former Monsanto factory, which produced toxic, cancer-causing chemicals, are now receiving assistance.
The settlement was approved last year, but details were worked out only weeks ago as to how the funds were to be spent.
The settlement will require Monsanto to do the following:
- $9 million will be spent to clean dioxin contaminated dust from 4500 homes.
- $21 million will be spent to test to see if people have been poisoned with dioxin.
- Citizens will be monitored for such poisoning for 30 years, not just a few months.
- An additional $63 million is to be allotted if additional tests for dioxin contamination testing is necessary.
- Anyone who lived in the Nitro area between Jan. 1, 1948, and Sept. 3, 2010 will be tested for dioxin. Although they must show proof they lived in the area, they will be eligible for testing even if they no longer live in Nitro.
- Former or present employees of Monsanto are not eligible for any of these benefits.
- An office will be set up to organize testing for Nitro citizens. The registration of participants is to be overlooked by Charleston attorney Thomas Flaherty, who was appointed by the court.
- Residents have a right to file individual suits against Monsanto if medical tests show they suffered physical harm due to dioxin exposure.
Just how were Nitro citizens exposed to dioxin? Monsanto was producing the toxic herbicide Agent Orange in Nitro, and dioxin is a chemical byproduct of the substance. It is known to cause serious health conditions. The factory that produced Agent Orange was opened in Nitro in 1948 and remained in operation until 2004, even though usage of this herbicide in the past (in Vietnam and other Asian countries) was fatal to millions of citizens and the war veterans who were exposed to it.
“There is no doubt that during and after the war, many Vietnamese absorbed this very toxic material [dioxin]. It is our belief from toxicological research and epidemiological studies from many countries that this dioxin probably resulted in significant health effects in Vietnam.” – Arnold Schecter and John Constable
“It’s been a real long haul,” attorney Stuart Calwell told The Charleston Gazette. Calwell represented Nitro area residents in a class action suit that prompted Monsanto to make the settlement.
“The politics of dioxin has been bitterly debated since the Vietnam War, but … we know that there is a health issue there and hopefully people will get their houses cleaned and the risk will come to an end and those exposed in the past will have the benefit of keeping an eye on their health.”
“My parents have lived in this house for approximately 40 years,” said Janet Ellis, whose mother’s home is now eligible for remediation.
“The dust removal process includes cleaning horizontal surfaces inside living spaces within a home,” said Brian Hanks with Foth Infrastructure and Environment, the group contracted to clean homes.
Crews start from the top of the house and work their way down to the bottom. They say the cleaning shouldn’t take longer than four hours.
So far 100 households have signed up for the cleaning. The goal is to clean all 4,500 eligible homes. Homeowners must register online by October 31st.
“Who wouldn’t want their house cleaned from top to bottom by professionals? I can’t imagine someone turning that down,” said Ellis.