Gonzaga Law Hosts Community Workshop ‘Monsanto, PCBs, and the Spokane River’ Sept. 27

The Spokane River.  GU photo

September 12, 2018

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University School of Law’s Environmental Law and Land Use Clinic will host a community workshop titled, “Monsanto, PCBs, and the Spokane River” at 6 p.m., Thursday Sept. 27 in the Barbieri Courtroom at the Law School (721 N. Cincinnati St.). The event is free and open to the public.

Peter von Stackelberg, an investigative journalist, writer, and publisher who contributed to the “Poison Papers” project, will discuss his contention that Monsanto produced and sold the toxic industrial chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — even years after learning that they posed hazards to public health and the environment. PCBs are long-lived man-made organic compounds that were banned by Congress in 1979 after being linked to health risks in humans and to environmental harm.

The “Poison Papers” represent a vast trove of rediscovered chemical industry and regulatory agency documents and correspondence stretching back to the 1920s. They include internal scientific studies and summaries of studies, internal memos and reports, meeting minutes, strategic discussions, and sworn testimonies. Von Stackelberg will discuss how the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press.

Monsanto produced PCBs from the 1930s until Congress banned them. Although PCBs are no longer manufactured, they exist as durable and difficult-to-destroy chemical compound used in inks, dyes, pesticides, lubricants, and old luminescent lightbulbs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs pose harm to ecosystems and human health — causing cancer and affecting reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.

The event will also feature Lee First, the Spokane Riverkeeper’s river toxics outreach coordinator, who will discuss PCBs, their effects on human health, and the extent of PCB contamination in the Spokane River.

Rick Eichstaedt, director of Gonzaga’s Environmental Law and Land Use Clinic and a GU Law professor, will discuss the litigation brought by the city of Spokane, the state of Washington, and other entities against Monsanto seeking financial relief to pay for the cleanup of PCBs in lakes and rivers nationwide, including the Spokane River. The lawsuits raise several claims that Eichstaedt will discuss.

For more information about the event, contact Rick Eichstaedt at (509) 251-1424 or eichstaedt@gonzaga.edu.

Read more about the Poison Papers project at www.poisonpapers.org/