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Sauget industries

Add THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) to Sauget's list of chemicals. (Post-Dispatch photo, 2009) 

SAUGET • A breakdown in negotiations to settle pollution lawsuits against a company here led to the filing of a flurry of additional wrongful-death and injury claims in St. Clair County Circuit Court, a plaintiffs’ attorney said Friday.

Lawyers based in the Metro East and Alabama allege that byproducts of Cerro Flow Products’ copper recycling operation have poisoned scores of residents and workers for more than 80 years.

The suits also allege that Cerro concealed health risks and property contamination from its byproducts.

The plaintiffs are represented by a team of lawyers, including Schoen Walton Telken & Foster, of East St. Louis; Christoper Cueto and Lloyd A. Cueto, of Belleville; and the Environment Litigation Group, based in Birmingham, Ala.

Attorney Paul Schoen said the most recent claims were identical to 23 suits that he and his co-counsel filed in 2009 against Cerro on behalf of about 10,000 plaintiffs — including next-of-kin of deceased individuals who had lived or worked in and around Sauget.

“We started out (filing suits) in 2009 and stopped the filing because negotiations were underway with Cerro,” Schoen said. “We’ve now reached an impasse with Cerro, so we had to go ahead and file on behalf of the remaining plaintiffs.”

Cerro officials could not be reached for comment.

Dozens of identical suits were filed last week on behalf of hundreds of residents and workers. According to the claims, “Cerro has … burned, melted, incinerated or otherwise pyrolized massive quantities of scrap items, producing large quantities of dioxins and furans, some of the most toxic chemicals on earth, all of which activities caused releases of large quantities of Substances into the environment.”

The original batch of suits also named as defendants Monsanto and several of its corporate spinoffs — Pharmacia, Solutia and Pfizer.

Those suits are pending.

Though the federal government had previously sued for cleanups in Sauget, the 2009 cases represented the first private suits claiming that companies operating in the city were responsible for cancer and other health problems.

Each claim seeks damages in excess of $50,000.