Anniston, Alabama: Toxic Town


By Michael J. Lynch, University of South Florida, FL


Anniston, Alabama is an example of a toxic town (see entry in this dictionary on toxic towns). The issues in Anniston are still being explored, and the ultimate status of Anniston as a toxic town are still being determined.

The issue of environmental pollution in Anniston is linked to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) pollution associated with pollutants emitted from a former Monsanto plant located in Anniston from the 1920s through the 1970s. Studies indicate that the area is heavily polluted with PCBs (Hermanson and Johnson, 2007). Elevated levels of PCBs have also been found among community residents (Silverstone et al., 2012).

It is estimated that during the time that Monsanto manufactured PCBs in the area, the company dumped 10 million pounds of PCB contaminated pollutants into landfills, and another 1.2 million pounds of PCB waste into waterways in Anniston.

At issue in all such pollution cases is whether the manufacturer, in this case, Monsanto knew, about the dangers of the pollution they were emitting. They did according to a jury that convicted Monsanto of knowingly releasing PCBs into the Anniston area (Grunwald, 2002). During the trail, it was revealed that Monsanto knew of the dangers associated with dumping PCBs in waterways at least since 1966. Monsanto’s own records indicated that their measurement of PCB levels in local waterways receiving Monsanto waste was 7,500 times the legal limit for PCB effluents (for further details from the trail in the People of Anniston VS Monsanto see, trial link). These documents show, for example, that in 1985 Monsanto had also conducted research on the extent of PCB contamination in the Anniston area under a consent decree with Alabama Department of Environmental Management. In 1993, Monsanto agree to contribute funds for cleaning up PCB waste in Anniston. It was 2000, however, before the US EPA sought to qualify Anniston as a Superfund Site (for EPA documents see, EPA Anniston). Following this procedure, 570 properties have been remediated by EPA in Anniston by 2010.
Further Reading

In this dictionary see:”Toxic Towns” entry


Grunwald, Michael. 2002. Monsanto Liable for PCB Dumping. Washington Post February 23.

Hermanson, Mark H., and Glenn W. Johnson. 2007. Polychlorinated biphenyls in tree bark near a former manufacturing plant in Anniston, Alabama. Chemosphere 68, 1: 191-198.

Silverstone, Allen E., Paula F. Rosenbaum, Ruth S. Weinstock, Scott M. Bartell, Herman R. Foushee, Christie Shelton, and Marian Pavuk. 2012. Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure and diabetes: results from the Anniston Community Health Survey. Environmental Health Perspectives 120, 5: 727.

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