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Herbicide Maker Asks That Lobbying Be Excluded From Class Action Lawsuit

by Danielle Ivory

Lawyers representing the maker of the herbicide atrazine are asking that documents related to the company’s lobbying and trade association activities be excluded from a class action lawsuit being filed by some Illinois water utilities.

As the Investigative Fund reported last week, many utilities say they cannot afford expensive carbon filters that would remove atrazine from public drinking water. They are going to court to try to force the Swiss chemical company Syngenta to pay for installing such filtering systems.

In an interview today, the lawyer for Syngenta Crop Protection Inc., Kurt Reeg, said the water districts had requested documents outside of the scope of the lawsuit.

“They’re asking what efforts have been made to lobby congress and the EPA with respect to herbicide legislation,” Reeg said. “They want to know about all of Syngenta’s trade association activities. It’s totally out of the realm of this case.”

The lawyer for the water utilities, Stephen Tillery, disagreed. “Their main argument is that the EPA has established that atrazine is safe. What the lobbying records will show is that Syngenta and its trade associations were inside the room when the EPA made that decision. They had special access. Environmental groups didn’t have that kind of access. The public didn’t even have that kind of access.”

During yesterday’s proceeding in Illinois Circuit Court, Judge Barbara Crowder postponed until Sept. 18 a ruling on a motion from six new Illinois communities to add themselves to the lawsuit. The cities are Carlinville, Fairfield, Flora, Greenville, Hillsboro, and Mattoon.

According to EPA records obtained by the Investigative Fund, weekly tests of the city of Flora’s drinking water in 2008 found levels of atrazine above federal safety limits, but the public was never notified.

Atrazine has been studied for its potential link to breast cancer, prostate cancer, and birth defects, and the EPA considers it to be a potential endocrine disruptor. It is banned in the European Union.

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