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Monsanto and Pharmacia Agree to Investigate Kanawha River Contamination

Release Date: 3/18/2004
Contact Information: David Sternberg (215) 814-5548

Contact: David Sternberg 215-8`4-5548
PHILADELPHIA – Monsanto Company and Pharmacia Corporation have agreed to investigate dioxin contamination of the Kanawha River primarily associated with operations at an old Monsanto plant (now owned by Flexsys) in Nitro, West Virginia. Pharmacia is the former parent corporation of Monsanto. The companies entered into an administrative consent order with the United States Environmental Protection Agency today.

“EPA is very pleased that these companies have stepped up to do the work to assess the contamination of the Kanawha River Site. This work will provide EPA and the state the necessary information to determine what needs to be done with contamination resulting from past manufacturing,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh.

"This assessment is a positive step toward addressing contamination in the Kanawha River. Monsanto and Pharmacia's signatures on the consent order lays the groundwork for cleanup of a problem that has persisted far too long," said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Cabinet Secretary Stephanie R. Timmermeyer.

Under the consent order, Monsanto and Pharmacia will investigate dioxin in a portion of the river that stretches from the confluence of the Kanawha and the Coal rivers to the Winfield Dam, a distance of approximately 14 miles. This will include evaluating safe and practical methods to address the contamination. EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will oversee this investigation.

Within 45 days of this order, Monsanto and Pharmacia will submit a work plan to EPA describing how the site investigation will be conducted. Upon EPA approval, the companies will conduct the evaluation and analysis required by the order in accordance with the EPA- approved work plan, which is expected to include sediment, river and fish tissue samples. EPA will then determine whether cleanup of the river is necessary and technically feasible, and will compare the available cleanup technologies to determine which is most likely to be effective.

The Kanawha riverbed sediments are contaminated by dioxins from the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (commonly called “2,4,5-T”), which was banned for use in 1984. 2,4,5-T was manufactured at the Nitro facility from 1948 to 1969.

Since 1985, a West Virginia fish advisory has been in effect, warning against eating fish caught in the Kanawha River downstream of the I-64 bridge in Dunbar, West Virginia, because of elevated dioxin levels in fish-tissue samples. In 1998, the Kanawha and Pocatalico rivers and Armour Creek were placed on West Virginia’s list of water bodies whose quality is impaired.