SAN JOSE – The city of Berkeley is suing three corporations over the alleged presence of an environmental contaminant called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which purportedly can cause health problems in animals and humans.

The city filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Co., Solutia Inc., Pharmacia Corp. and Does 1 to 100 on Jan. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, citing public nuisance and equitable indemnity.

Monsanto, which is based in St. Louis, was the sole manufacturer of PCBs in the United States from 1935 until 1979, the year PCBs were branded toxic, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the San Francisco Bay is contaminated with PCBs and was detected in the Bay’s water, sediments, fish and wildlife. The natural transport of PCBs comes through storm water and the city of Berkeley lawfully discharges water into the Bay per its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, the complaint states. The plaintiff is permitted to discharge a certain amount of PCBs into the Bay, the complaint states, and has spent money to reduce the amount to comply with California Regional Water Quality Control Board's standards.

The complaint states that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies PCBs as "probable human carcinogens" and studies have shown that PCBs could play a role in triggering breast cancer and other health conditions. The plaintiff alleges that the presence of PCBs interferes with fishing, swimming and sailing, among other activities.

The city of Berkeley is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and any other and further relief the court deems just, along with litigation costs and attorney fees. It is represented by John H. Gomez and John P. Fiske of Gomez Trial Attorneys in San Diego; Scott Summy, Carla Burke and Celeste Evangelisti of Baron & Budd PC in Dallas, Texas; and by Zachary D. Cowan and Lynne S. Bourgault of the city of Berkeley's Office the City Attorney.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California – San Jose Division Case number 4:16-cv-00071-DMR

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