Syngenta Reaches $105M Atrazine Settlement


by Todd Neeley, DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — Syngenta and some 2,000 communities have agreed to a $105 million settlement in a lawsuit that alleged the chemical company should be liable for clean-up of the herbicide atrazine found in municipal water supplies in six states.

Cities and towns will be required to file claims to prove atrazine has been found in their water systems and that those communities have sustained additional costs as a result, according to a joint motion for preliminary approval of settlement filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Illinois. If the settlement is approved, the court then will oversee the payout of those claims.

Atrazine is used to control broadleaf and grassy weeds in a variety of crops but is applied primarily to corn. The European Union banned the chemical in 2003 after studies found a link between exposure to the chemical and birth defects in frogs.

Though a settlement has been reached, the company continues to maintain that it should not have to pay to clean water supplies where atrazine levels remain below EPA safety standards. The company said in a statement that it was time to move on.

“This settlement will conclusively resolve the disputed claims of an estimated 2,000 U.S. community water systems that may be within the proposed settlement class, and put an end to at least seven expensive and time-consuming lawsuits in which defendants have expressly denied any liability,” the joint settlement motion said.

In March 2010 plaintiffs from six states filed a federal lawsuit. The original plaintiffs include the Illinois communities of Greenville, Coulterville, Evansville, Farina and Gillespie; the Missouri communities of Cameron and Concordia; the Kansas towns of Carbondale, Dodge City, Marion, Miami County Rural Water District No. 2, Oswego and Plains; Jasper, Ind.; the Ohio communities of Monroeville, Upper Sandusky; and Creston, Iowa; as well as all others “similarly situated.”

The lawsuit alleged that atrazine “continuously entered” community water supplies and as a result injured the property rights of those communities.

Those communities alleged that they have had to test and monitor water supplies for atrazine, as well as to install, operate and maintain systems to filter the herbicide for finished water supplies. The plaintiffs alleged that they would continue to incur expenses from the continued presence of atrazine and asked the court for all future damages likely to occur.

Syngenta said in court documents that the litigation has been “extremely hard-fought, burdensome and expensive.” The company said litigation produced more than 10 million pages of documents, and led to “…significant disruption of their business, including the depositions of dozens of employees.”

“The proposed settlement would put an end to the expense, inconvenience and distraction of further litigation while providing significant monetary relief to the proposed class in the form of $105 million, in exchange for a release resolving plaintiffs’ claims related to the presence of atrazine in their water,” documents said.

Syngenta has maintained that the plaintiffs’ only legally protected interest is the “right to provide water that complies with the MCL for atrazine” or safe levels as determined by the EPA. In 1991 the EPA set the MCL, or Maximum Contaminant Level, at three parts per billion for atrazine on an average annual basis. Syngenta maintained that water suppliers that did not have atrazine levels exceeding the MCL “have not suffered a legally cognizable injury.” The company also said that the filtering systems used to remove atrazine were also needed by many of the plaintiff communities to remove other drinking water contaminants.

“This settlement is good for the company and the farmers who depend on atrazine, as well as our retailers, distributors, partners, and others who have been inconvenienced by this ongoing and burdensome litigation,” the company said.

Syngenta has been determined to defend atrazine on all fronts, including an ongoing review of new research studies by the EPA. The company has funded a number of studies to show the value of the herbicide in agriculture, claiming an overall benefit to farmers of some $3.3 billion and support of up to 85,000 American jobs related to farming annually.

A copy of the proposed settlement can be accessed at,


© Copyright 2012 DTN/The Progressive Farmer, A Telvent Brand. All rights reserved.

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp


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