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City of Greenville v. Syngenta Crop Protection, S.D. Ill., No. 3:10-cv-00188, settlement filed 5/24/12
Key Development: Syngenta agrees to a $105 million settlement with community water systems over presence of atrazine in drinking water.
Impact: Water systems will receive payments to aid in cost of water testing and monitoring, as well as help to install filtration systems due to presence of atrazine.
What's Next: Settlement hearing scheduled for May 30.
Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. has reached a $105 million settlement to resolve the claims of an estimated 2,000 community water systems over the presence of atrazine in drinking water (City of Greenville v. Syngenta Crop Protection, S.D. Ill., No. 3:10-cv-00188, settlement filed 5/24/12).
The proposed settlement, filed May 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, would end a class action lawsuit filed in 2010 by communities in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and other Midwestern states. The lawsuit alleged that Syngenta designed, marketed, and sold atrazine “knowing that it would contaminate public water supplies when used as intended.”
Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States, registered for uses on a variety of crops, including corn, sorghum, and sugarcane, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plaintiffs alleged that atrazine “continuously entered their water supplies, thereby injuring their property rights.”
Syngenta said in a May 24 statement that it “continues to stand by” the safety of atrazine, which it said is supported by scientific evidence that concludes “no one ever has or ever could be” exposed to high enough levels of the herbicide in water to affect their health.
“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.” Syngenta said.
Syngenta said atrazine is “one of the best understood herbicides in the world” and meets “the most stringent safety requirements in the world.”
Under the proposed settlement agreement, Syngenta expressly denies any liability, and the plaintiffs acknowledge that they are not aware of any new scientific studies relating to atrazine.
Garry Niemeyer, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said in a May 25 news release that he is “relieved” that a settlement has been reached that will allow for farmers to continue using atrazine.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois is scheduled to hold a May 30 hearing on the proposed settlement.
Syngenta and the plaintiffs urged the court to grant preliminary approval to the proposed settlement, which they say is “within the range of possible approval.”
The proposed allocation plan provides that the $105 million settlement fund will be paid to any community water system that submits a valid claim. All valid claims will receive a fixed payment, with the rest of the settlement fund to be paid on a “pro-rata basis” based on a water system's related history of atrazine detection, its size, and the age of its claim.
The proposed settlement also includes a plan to direct notice to all members of the class action lawsuit that would be bound by the agreement. If the court accepts the proposed settlement and notice plan, a notice would be mailed to all members and published in June, with an August deadline for objecting to or opting-out of the settlement, and a scheduled October final hearing on the fairness of the proposal.
By Patrick Ambrosio
The proposed settlement agreement is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=fwhe-8ummmv.
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