Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 30, 2012. A settlement between plaintiffs and the manufacturer of the endocrine disrupting herbicide atrazine, Syngenta, will pay $105 million to settle a nearly 8-year-old lawsuit and could help reimburse community water systems (CWS) in 45 states that have had to filter the toxic chemical from its drinking water, according to news reports. It will provide financial recoveries for costs that have been borne for decades by more than 1,887 CWSs that provide drinking water more than one in six Americans across at least 45 states.
“The scope of this historic settlement is enormous and its protection of the health of millions of Americans across the country is a huge benefit to the public, the environment, and the taxpayers,” the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer Stephen M. Tillery told the media.
The individual amounts that eligible CWSs will recover will be calculated based on the levels of atrazine and frequency of atrazine contamination measured in the water of impacted CWSs and the population served by each CWS. The 300 CWSs with the highest contamination levels will recover 100 percent of their costs.
Atrazine Settlement Details
- Under the reported settlement, Syngenta will pay $105 million to pay the claims of the nearly 2,000 CWS that have ever experienced atrazine contamination, costs, and attorneys’ fees.
- The settlement resolves the claims of CWSs raised in this lawsuit. It will have no impact on any consumer’s ability to bring an action for personal injury as a result of ingestion of atrazine. It will also not prevent a CWS from bringing a lawsuit in connection with a point-source spill or against a farmer or applicator who used atrazine other than in accordance with the label instructions.
- Any CWS that does not want to be bound to the terms of the settlement has until August 27, 2012 to exclude itself.
- Every CWS that has ever found a measurable level of atrazine in its raw or finished water is eligible for payment.
- Each CWS’ share will be determined based on its historical atrazine contamination levels and volume of water filtered.
- Generally, CWSs that processed more water or frequently had high concentrations of atrazine are eligible for more funds; CWSs that processed less water or whose atrazine contamination was sporadic or limited will get less compensation.
- All of the $105 million will be distributed. None will revert to Syngenta.
- Public records sand other data available to the plaintiffs show that approximately 2,000 CWSs have detected atrazine in their water.
- Syngenta expressly denies any liability for contamination of drinking water by atrazine and any risk to public health from the herbicide.
Atrazine is used to control broadleaf weeds and annual grasses in crops, golf courses, and residential lawns. It is used extensively for broadleaf weed control in corn. The herbicide does not cling to soil particles, but washes into surface water or leaches into groundwater, and then finds its way into municipal drinking water. It is the most commonly detected pesticide in rivers, streams and wells, with an estimated 76.4 million pounds of atrazine applied in the U.S. annually. It has been linked to a myriad of environmental concerns and health problems in humans, including disruption of hormone activity, birth defects, and cancer, as well as effects on human reproductive systems, as we noted yesterday.
Atrazine is also a major threat to wildlife. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs.
In March, U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) reintroduced legislation to ban atrazine, HR 4318. “No one should ever have to worry if the water they drink is making them sick or affecting fertility,” said Rep. Ellison. “Germany and Italy banned atrazine use in 1991 and EU health officials banned its use in 2003. Yet, almost 10 years later the United States is still using it. We need to remove toxins like atrazine from our waterways.”
In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a petition to ban atrazine. Beyond Pesticides submitted comments last year in support of this petition in which we outline in detail the numerous reasons that this chemical is harmful and unnecessary. Read our full comments here.
According to reports on the settlement, Syngenta is neither accepting contamination responsiblity nor acknowledging hazards associated with its product.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.