Daily News Archive

Pesticide Manufacturers Pay $100 Million in Settlement
(Beyond Pesticides, January 8, 2004)
A lawsuit was settled December 19, 2003, resulting in a payout of $100 million by pesticide manufacturing plant owners GB Sciences (GBS), according to the Houston Chronicle. GBS, its parent company Syngenta, and 11 other firms were charged with contamination of property owned by the Port of Houston, located adjacent to the plant.

Port officials began suspecting contamination in 1998, at which point they launched an investigation. As their analysis went deeper, they found that the contamination was much more extensive than anticipated, with hazardous pesticides DDT and lindane as the main culprits. U.S. production of DDT ceased in 1970, and the plant discontinued production of lindane in 1966, but the toxic residues of these dangerous chemicals are long lasting. The contamination ran through the Harris County flood control ditch and a section of the Greens Bayou.

The settlement, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, includes $55 million to cover attorneys' fees, and oversight of the remediation process for the next 30 years and for future protection for environmental issues. In addition, defendants will buy 112 acres of the contaminated land from the port.

Remediation of the property is expected to start this year and take up to seven years to complete. Included in the cleanup will be a major project involving the removal of 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the bayou and county flood ditch. The total cost of remediation is a projected $45 million.

"The port authority has been committed to resolving this matter because we genuinely felt that it was the right thing to do for the protection and preservation of the environment and the community's quality of life," said Tom Kornegay, executive director of the port. The port could have held out for more money but was focused instead on addressing the environmental issues, said Michael Connelly of the Connelly Baker Wotring Jackson law firm, which represented the port.

With the announcement of the lawsuit settlement, Syngenta said Tuesday that environmental stewardship is a priority of the company. Today, fungicides are produced at their plant.

Other defendants in the lawsuit included ISK and its affiliates; Occidental Chemical Co., as the successor to Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Co.; Maxus Energy Corp.; and Zeneca.