Burlington School District sues Monsanto over PCB contamination

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 3:29 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 5:01 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The school board in Vermont’s largest city on Monday sued the manufacturer of chemicals that are forcing the city to tear down its high school and build a new one at an estimated cost of more than $190 million.

City officials announced in October they planned to sue chemical giant Monsanto after PCBs were found during renovations to the existing building, which also housed the Burlington Technical Center.

“Today’s filing brings us one step closer to holding the producer of these toxic chemicals accountable for the harm it has inflicted on our community,” Burlington Superintendent Tom Flanagan said in a statement.

On Election Day last month, city voters approved a $165 million bond to help pay for the new school.

In a statement issued Monday, Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, said the lawsuit had no merit and the entire situation could have been avoided.

“Hopefully (the lawsuit) will shed light on the role of the state of Vermont, the Burlington School District and the manufacturers of the building products at issue in creating the perfect storm that resulted in unwarranted actions to abandon the school, move students to a converted Macy’s, cancel renovation plans and spend $165 million, more than twice the renovation cost, to build a new high school,” the statement said.

Currently, Burlington High School students are attending classes in a renovated Macy’s department store in the city’s downtown.

Officials hope to begin the demolition of the existing school early next year. The plan is to have the new school ready for students in 2025.

The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington estimates the total cost of tearing down the existing structure and building a new one would be more than $190 million.

PCBs are toxic industrial chemicals, now banned, that have accumulated in plants, fish, birds and people for decades. PCBs were used in many industrial and commercial applications, including in paint, coolants, sealants and hydraulic fluids.

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