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Salem Water Department Receives Settlement

Last updated on Saturday, February 2, 2013

(SALEM) - The City of Salem, specifically the water department, received a $29,265.26 boost earlier this month. The money is the city’s portion of settlments from two class action lawsuits.

Stephanie Taylor Ferriell of the Leader-Democrat reports, the nationwide lawsuits involved Syngenta AG, the world's largest manufacturer of the herbicide atrazine, which ends up in water systems of municipalities across the U.S. Atrazine, a weed killer, is commonly used on corn and other row crops. Runoff can contaminate water systems.

City Clerk-Treasurer Pat Persinger said she was notified Aug.1 that Salem might want to research its records and consider joining the lawsuit. She had just three weeks to compile treatment records from 1994 through 2009.

A total of 1,085 communities received checks in the $105 million settlement. While the majority are in the Midwest, they are located all across the country, from Hawaii to Florida.

Removing atrazine from drinking water costs water treatment facilities in terms of supplies and manpower. Mayor David Bower said while traces of the chemical were detected until 2006, "we never had a high concentration." He said tests have not shown even trace amounts of atrazine in the past six years.

When Persinger heard about the lawsuit and told Bower, he agreed she should pursue it, but he didn't think the city would get much, if anything. When Persinger received an email Jan. 16 informing her of the amount, both she and the mayor were stunned.

The check, received Jan. 18, was deposited in the water department. The two said the money could be used to pay down debt or for operational expenses. "We'll sit down and decide what we're going to do," said Bower.

The Salem Water Department's annual budget is approximately $1.9 million. The department has 10 employees, a decrease of six since Bower took office in 2008.

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