Monsanto to begin PCB testing at former BHS campus

Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 5:33 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Officials with Monsanto this week are slated to start their own PCB testing in the former Burlington High School to gather evidence the company hopes will exonerate it in two local lawsuits.

It comes after the chemical giant’s parent company, Bayer, succeeded in delaying the demolition of the PCB-contaminated campus until this weekend, at the earliest.

Monsanto last week filed a motion to dismiss the Burlington School District’s lawsuit, citing Vermont’s statute of limitations. The company argues that the district knew -- or should have known -- PCBs were likely a problem in its schools more than six years before filing the complaint. In Vermont, civil actions must be filed within six years of learning about a problem.

The company is pointing to documents that prove the state recommended districts test for PCBs as early as 2013. In 2013, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Agency of Education, and the Department of Health learned several New England schools discovered elevated levels of cancer-causing chemicals in their buildings. That’s what prompted the state to launch its PCB pilot program that same year, which tested the indoor air in four schools constructed between 1950 and 1979, when PCBs were used in building materials. Based on the results of that study, state officials determined they didn’t need to test the rest of Vermont’s schools built or renovated in that time frame. But they did recommend -- not require -- that districts with old or leaky light ballasts, a common source of PCBs, to pay for their own testing.

Monsanto argues that if the district tested BHS when the state suggested, leaders could have investigated the contamination sooner.

The company also cites notifications the EPA published between 2009 and 2015 warning about the dangers of PCBs in America’s schools.

Burlington School District officials were not available for comment Monday.

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