DC Attorney General Karl Racine has filed a lawsuit against the chemical manufacturer Velsicol, claiming that it has contaminated local waterways with cancer-causing chemicals for decades.
According to the lawsuit, the company’s practices are primarily affecting the health and safety of low-income areas populated by Black and brown DC residents.
“With today’s lawsuit, we are going after Velsicol which – for decades – made dollar after dollar of profit while poisoning DC residents with dangerous chemicals that they knew caused severe health problems, including cancer,” Racine said in a statement on Thursday, October 13.
“The damage that Velsicol caused will continue to impact the health of communities in the District of Columbia far into the future, particularly Black and brown community members, as these chemicals persist in our environment and continue to wreak havoc on our natural resources. Our office will use our authority to make Velsicol pay for their wrongdoings and continue the fight for cleaner, safer, and healthier futures for DC families,” the Attorney General continued.
In the late 1950s, Velsicol heavily promoted chlordane, placing hundreds of advertisements in local newspapers. Here are some examples of local advertisements marketing chlordane to District residents between 1958 and 1962 — including after Velsicol knew chlordane caused cancer. pic.twitter.com/nhHpI8JZf9
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) October 13, 2022
The DC chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Sierra Club DC, Groundwork Anacostia River DC, and other groups also announced their support for Racine’s legal battle against Velsicol at a press conference.
“The long-term impacts of releasing these toxic, cancer-causing chemicals into the Anacostia has had disproportionate health-impacts on lower-income, Black residents in the District of Columbia,” said Akosua Ali, President of the NAACP DC, adding that the organization is “proud to partner with AG Racine to fight this environmental injustice.”
Racine’s office accuses Velsicol of violating the District’s environmental laws by polluting its natural resources and waterways — the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers — with “chlordane,” which is a pesticide used to kill insects and manufactured by the Illinois-based company.
Assessing and addressing chlordane’s risks to human health and the environment in the region have cost DC taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, according to the Office of the Attorney General.
Through the lawsuit, Racine is seeking compensation for all the damages to DC caused by Velsicol, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief, including civil penalties, to remedy the company’s promotion and sale of chlordane.
Racine’s efforts towards environmental justice include recovering $52 million from Monsanto for spreading toxic substances in DC waterways and $125,000 penalty from Greyhound for air pollution at Union Station.