LEWISTOWN, Mont. (AP) — Biotech company Monsanto has agreed to pay $5 million toward the cost of cleaning up PCB contamination in Big Spring Creek near Lewistown.
The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks was seeking $10.5 million to clean up paint chips containing PCBs that washed out of the raceways at the state-owned Big Spring Creek fish hatchery.
A trial seeking damages started last week in District Court in Fergus County. Torger Oaas, attorney for the state and landowners, said the $5 million settlement was reached Monday morning.
Monsanto Co. was once a leading U.S. manufacturer of PCBs, chemical mixtures that were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial products, including electrical transformers and oil-based paint. PCBs were banned in 1979 due to their toxicity.
"We're very pleased with the agreement," Oaas said. "It means the creek cleanup can start this summer, which is what the landowners wanted. Of course, it saves the taxpayers $5 million."
St. Louis-based Monsanto did not make the paint, which migrated through the food chain into fish, but the company manufactured PCBs from 1929 to 1971.
Monsanto spokesman Bob Peirce said the company was satisfied with the settlement but blamed FWP for the contamination.
"The environmental issue occurred in the 1980s when the department decided to remove the paint by sandblasting, and then disposed of the paint chips in the creek, which caused the contamination, in our opinion," Peirce said.
The cleanup is expected to take four to five years and a new generation of fish before the fish advisories are removed, said Don Skaar, a supervisor at FWP's fish management section.
In 2008, Monsanto reached a nearly $5 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by landowners over loss of property value due to the contamination.