Midwest utilities that claimed Syngenta’s weedkiller contaminated their water supplies will likely receive their share of a $105 million settlement within 60 days, according to Baron and Budd, the water providers’ law firm.
On Oct. 23, the court approved the settlement on behalf of more than 1,000 community water systems that detected atrazine in their water supplies. The deadline to appeal the court’s approval expired this week and the settlement is now final. It concludes class action litigation that has been pending for more than eight years against Syngenta Crop Protection and Syngenta, the chemical companies that produced and marketed atrazine and atrazine-containing materials.
Atrazine, an agricultural herbicide widely used in the US and particularly in the Midwest, is used to control weeds in corn and soybeans. Once applied, the chemical easily runs off into surface waters and drinking water supplies, plaintiffs’ attorneys said.
Many municipalities and water providers detected atrazine in their water supplies and spent significant sums to remove it from finished water, according to Baron and Budd. The settlement will reimburse these costs to more than 1,000 water providers that serve water to more than 30 million Americans.
EPA says hormone imbalances are the most sensitive health affect associated with atrazine. The chemical can possibly disrupt reproductive and developmental processes, according to tests on laboratory animals.
In 2004, a water provider filed a lawsuit in the Illinois state court system against Syngenta and Syngenta Crop Protection. The water provider alleged that Syngenta knew atrazine would run off into surface water but decided to market the product with complete disregard for the expense water providers would ultimately pay to remove the chemical from the water before supplying it to consumers.
In 2010, other public drinking water providers filed a similar suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
In a separate case, last May Syngenta Crop Protection agreed to pay a $102,000 civil penalty and to relabel certain shipments in a settlement related to the sale or distribution of misbranded pesticides at a facility in Omaha, Neb., and a farm supply retailer in Savannah, Mo.