January 23, 2013
LIMA — Mike Caprella was skeptical. Officials with the city of Lima had been approached about joining a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer of a herbicide that ended up in the city’s water supply. Doubting the city would see a substantial settlement, if any, he made a bet with the city law director: to buy a Kewpee for every $10 worth of settlement the city received.
If Law Director Tony Geiger intends to collect, it’s going to cost Caprella, the city’s deputy director of utilities, more than 22,000 Kewpees. How does Caprella intend to fulfill the good-natured wager?
“One at a time,” Caprella said with a chuckle.
Lima will be receiving $227,000 as a result of the settlement against Swiss-based Syngenta, the largest manufacturer of the weed killer atrazine. Syngenta was ordered to pay a total of $65 million to 1,100 municipalities, with Lima’s share being the 66th largest among the group, Geiger said.
The money will go back into the Lima’s water fund to help pay for other ongoing projects.
Farmers use the chemical to treat corn crops. Eventually, rainfalls wash it into streams and rivers the chemical ends up in the city’s water supply. The settlement ordered municipalities to be paid for the cost of removing the chemical from drinking water, Geiger said.
Caprella said residents were never in any danger as levels of atrazine did not approach the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“There never was an issue with atrazine being even close to the maximum contaminant level which is the amount the EPA regulates you can have in the water,” Geiger said. “We monitored for it and we treated for it and we never had high levels. If you had any amounts, that qualified you for this lawsuit.”
Lima was asked to join the suit because it had experience in getting the chemical out of the city water supply.
“The city submitted the necessary records associated with the levels of atrazine in the system dating back to 1995,” Geiger said. “That data was plugged into a complex mathematical formula approved by the court in the class action lawsuit and as a result the city’s share of some $65 million was a little over $227,000.”