OTTAWA — Getting involved in a class action lawsuit wasn’t something officials at several area municipalities had much experience with. Joining a multistate lawsuit against a Swiss herbicide producer proved beneficial as coffers in six area communities got a boost last week.
As previously reported, Lima received more than $227,000 from the settlement with Switzerland-based Syngenta, the world’s largest manufacturer of the weed killer atrazine. Lima, Celina, Delphos, Findlay, Ottawa and Van Wert were among the 81 communities in Ohio and nearly 1,100 communities nationwide to join the lawsuit.
Farmers use the chemical to treat corn crops. Eventually, as rainfall washes it into streams and rivers the chemical ends up in a community’s water supply. The settlement ordered municipalities to be paid for the cost of removing the chemical from drinking water.
“It wasn’t at levels that would have caused concern but there was a presence,” said John Williams, municipal director for Ottawa. “It wasn’t a health issue and it never exceeded the limits but with any level you have to treat it.”
As part of the settlement, Ottawa received more than $165,000. Findlay received more than $102,000. Van Wert got more than $74,000. Celina received more than $21,000 and Delphos received more than $18,000. The settlements were based upon not only the amount of atrazine in the water supply but how many years a community could document the presence.
“It was more than we expected,” said Jay Fleming, safety-service director for Van Wert. “I don’t know that I recall another class action lawsuit the city has responded to in my years here. We responded because we had atrazine in the system. In these economic times, these are nice surprises.”
Officials in Lima, Delphos, Ottawa and Findlay said the funds would go back into their respective water funds to help pay for operations, testing and additional projects. Officials in Van Wert haven’t decided how to use the funds, Fleming said.