A 1974 memo from Dow Chemical describes several chemicals in a widely used farm fumigant as "garbage." Today, one of those useless chemicals threatens drinking water for more than 1 million people across the San Joaquin Valley.
Now linked to cancer, the toxin was waste from a plastic-making process. Chemical companies often mix such leftovers to create other products to avoid the cost of disposal, says one long-time chemical engineer.
The fumigant manufacturers, Dow and Shell Oil Co., discovered decades ago that 1,2,3-trichloropropane, or TCP, was not effective against worms called nematodes, according to documents in lawsuits filed by a dozen Valley cities against the companies. But they apparently left it in a fumigant anyway.
"TCP was a hazardous waste, not a pesticide," said lawyer Todd Robins, who represents several Valley cities and water agencies. "It did nothing for farmers, but Shell and Dow knowingly used their fumigants as a way to dispose of it."
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