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Largest U.S. Water Utility Joins Atrazine Lawsuit
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By Cleon Rickel

The Huffingon Post news website reported this week that the nation’s largest private water utility company is joining a federal lawsuit filed by 16 cities and public water systems against the major maker of the herbicide atrazine.

American Water Company, representing 28 additional Midwestern communities, has joined the lawsuit, which was filed two weeks against the U.S. company Syngenta Crop Protection and Syngenta AG, Basel, Switzerland, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, East St. Louis, according to the article written by Danielle Ivory.

The utility said it’s suing to recover the costs of treating water that contains atrazine.

The group includes Cameron, Mo., northeast of Kansas City; Concordia, Mo., east of Kansas City; Miami County Rural Water District No. 2, Spring Hill, Kan., just southwest of Kansas City; and the city of Carbondale, Kan., about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City. The group originally sought at least $5 million.

Atrazine is especially popular with Midwestern corn growers because it’s relatively inexpensive and is effective in killing most broadleaf and grassy weed but opponents say it has become too prevalent in ground water throughout the region.

The lawsuit seeks at least $5 million from Syngenta Crop Protection, Greensboro, N.C., and its parent, Syngenta, AG, Basel, Switzerland, in damages and to pay for the costs to treat water laced with atrazine. Cameron, Mo., northeast of Kansas City; and Concordia, Mo., east of Kansas City; Miami County Rural Water District No. 2, Spring Hill, Kan., just southwest of Kansas City; and the city of Carbondale, Kan., about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City, are among the group of cities and water districts in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illiniois, Indiana and Ohio involved.

Syngenta is a major manufacturer of the herbicide atrazine, short for 2-chloro-4-ethylamino-6-isopropyl amino-s-triazine.

American farmers apply about 75 million tons of it each year to their crop fields, including soybeans, corn, milo and cane sugar. About 75 percent of the field corn planted in the U.S. is treated with it.

It’s prized for its effectiveness in killing broadleaf and grassy weeds without “binding” to the soil -- not staying in the soil to kill newly-planted corn plants in future years.

However, in their court filing, the water systems say because of its properties, atrazine readily runs off the fields during heavy rains and easily contaminates the streams and lakes that form their water supplies.

Atrazine, and those chemicals that are byproducts of the breakdown of atrazine, pose a health risk and Syngenta has denied and has suppressed or tried to skew that evidence that shows there is a risk, according to the filing.

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