Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

January 17, 2013

City receives $357,856 settlement

Class-action lawsuit over Atrazine found in water supplies

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Corsicana received a $357,856 settlement this week, part of a larger class-action lawsuit over Atrazine in water supplies. Atrazine is a weed control chemical that has been found in community water supplies for decades, and in Corsicana’s raw water for more than 15.

The chemical gets into lakes and streams through water run-off, when it rains. If not removed, long-term exposure to it can lead to cardiovascular and reproductive problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s removed by filtering the water through activated charcoal filters.

The $105 million settlement was an agreed-upon solution between 1,085 municipal and community water suppliers, like Corsicana, and the manufacturer, Syngenta.

“We’ve been testing for Atrazine for several years,” said Corsicana City Manager Connie Standridge. “It started showing up probably at least 15 years ago. It showed up in sampling the reservoirs, specifically Navarro Mills. Tarrant Regional Water District watches Richland Chambers, so the reservoirs as a whole saw it showing up at least 15 years ago.

“It’s not a huge complicated treatment process, but it does add expense,” Standridge continued. “You can treat for it, you can remove it, it’s just an added cost of treating your water.”

The money is more than Corsicana has spent on the charcoal filters, but since it’s an on-going problem, the expense will continue. The money isn’t designated, so will go towards water system maintenance projects, Standridge said.

“Of course, we’re never at a loss of utility projects,” she said. “There’s obviously many projects we could put it towards. There’s a lot of line work we could do in the city, and plant work we could do at treatment plant. We’ll certainly find a good use for it.”

Tarrant Regional wasn’t part of the lawsuit, although the water district supplies water to 1.7 million people through 30 wholesalers, such as Corsicana.

“It won’t have a lot of impact on us,” said Darrell Andrews, spokesman for the Tarrant Regional Water District. “The settlement was really for the municipal water suppliers, and we’re just raw water. The settlement would allow for utilities that had to take extra precautions to treat it. We sell to the people the settlement helped.”

Like Corsicana, Tarrant Regional has found Atrazine in the water, but they test for it only seasonally, when they know there’s a likelihood of water contamination from runoff.

Atrazine is typically only applied on crops in early spring or late winter, so that’s when both agencies test for it, and that’s when Corsicana filters it.

Since 2004 the St. Louis law firm of Korein, Tillery and the Dallas firm of Barron & Budd have represented water providers across the country against Syngenta, the world's largest Atrazine manufacturer, based in Switzerland, according to a press release from the attorneys.

According to Lead Attorney Stephen M. Tillery the percentage of participation by class members was unprecedented. “Every cent of the settlement fund will be distributed to class members,” he stated. “The scope of this settlement is enormous. These settlement funds will be used to help protect the health of millions of people across the country.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com