Long Beach could receive up to $7.5 million in a class action settlement with Monsanto from a lawsuit filed against the chemical maker alleging its products polluted the city’s bodies of water.
The city announced the preliminary agreement Friday afternoon, but it could still be months or longer before the settlement is formally approved and money is distributed to the suing parties. The settlement is with Monsanto and subsidiaries of Pfizer and Eastman Chemical over allegations that their products have polluted various cities over the past 70 years.
Long Beach was joined by 12 other plaintiff municipalities including Oakland, San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles County and Baltimore City and county. In total, the settlement could cost Monsanto $550 million.
Once the settlement is approved, there are more than 2,500 agencies across the country that will get a portion of the settlement.
“Monsanto needs to be held accountable for their immense damage to the environment and our communities,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement.
The suit was filed over polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) being introduced into the ecosystem, which can affect immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems in humans and are known to cause cancer.
The bodies of water in Long Beach that were found to have PCBs were the Port of Long Beach, Colorado Lagoon and the Dominguez Watershed.
Assistant City Attorney Dawn McIntosh said the city could benefit from additional funds that could help recoup some of the costs incurred by the city during the litigation, which the city originally filed in 2016.
The original suit was dismissed by a U.S. District judge later that year. The city later joined the class action lawsuit.
McIntosh said the city used significant resources to put together data during the process but the details of whether agencies could be compensated, and how much, have yet to be worked out. Neither has the timeframe in which cities can expect payment.
“It may or may not be decided by the end of the year,” McIntosh said.
Where the money will end up will be up to the City Council, McIntosh said, noting that the money was awarded based on how a city was affected but doesn’t require a city to spend the money on specific projects to address remediation.
The City Council is in the beginning stages of writing the next year’s fiscal budget, which is projected to have a $12 million deficit that city officials said last week could be closed using leftover American Rescue Plan money.
The city has already begun to address certain issues it sued for like stormwater contaminants. It’s in the process of building a $30 million project called “LB-MUST” along the Los Angeles River that could trap contaminants before they exit the mouth of the river and into the city’s oceanfront.