PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) — Several lawsuits have been filed by Berkshire County residents alleging their cancer was caused by toxic chemicals. They claim GE, a longtime source of concern surrounding contaminants in the Housatonic River, shares much of the blame.
The plaintiffs are also suing Monsanto, a PCB manufacturer, and other related parties.
Crystal Czerno’s 9-year-old son, Carter LaCasse, was diagnosed in December of 2021 with a rare form of leukemia.
“[He’s] still fighting,” Czerno said, “very much so.”
Soil from Hill 78, containing PCBs, was used as playground landfill at the school. The Environmental Protection Agency ordered PCBs to be cleaned up in Pittsfield 2000. GE complied, but these new lawsuits say amounts of the chemicals are still around.
“The stuff that’s here in the community, in my backyard, at his school,” Czerno said, “there’s no denying the connection.”
There are currently five cases like Czerno’s filed, including one from a local nurse, Diane Romero.
“I happen to live right abut GE property,” Romero said. “I was kind of settled with–that somebody was monitoring this, and that there weren’t unacceptable levels of PCBs.”
But then, Romero was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Romero and Czerno’s attorney, Thomas Bosworth, said the eight total plaintiffs are likely to be joined by more people tying their cancer to PCB pollution in the area.
“This is a case that’s historic, and been a long time coming,“ Bosworth said.
According to Bosworth, the information provided in these lawsuits will prove that Monsanto and GE have known for decades that PCBs are toxic and carcinogenic, but chose to sell and dump them around Pittsfield anyway.
“You can dig them up over here, and put them over there, but they’re not going anywhere,“ Bosworth said.
NEWS10 reached out to Monsanto for comment, and received the following statement from a spokesperson:
“While we have great sympathy for the plaintiffs in these cases, Monsanto is not responsible for the alleged injuries for many reasons including that it did not manufacture or dispose of PCBs near the Allendale Elementary School or in the greater Pittsfield area, and had no responsibility for or control over the electrical equipment plant in Pittsfield operated by another defendant in these cases. Moreover, the weight of the scientific evidence does not support an association between exposure to PCBs and the injuries alleged in these cases, even among highly exposed former PCB workers. Monsanto will respond to these complaints in due course and maintains that its past electrical customers are obligated to defend and indemnify Monsanto based on the indemnity contract the companies agreed to in 1972.”Spokesperson for Monsanto
GE did not return NEWS10’s request for comment as of the time this was published.