A federal judge has approved a $105 million settlement between Syngenta and water utilities that claimed the agribusiness company contaminated water with an herbicide, according to court records.
The lawsuit was filed by water providers in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio and Iowa who sought compensation for having to test and filter water for the herbicide atrazine.
The chemical is commonly used to control weeds in corn, sorghum and sugarcane that some studies have associated with hormone imbalances and potential disruptions to reproductive processes, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert called the payment a "substantial recovery" for the plaintiffs, noting that it represents roughly 75 percent of their total estimated damages.
Class action settlements typically net plaintiffs about 6 percent or less of their estimated losses, according to a study cited by the judge.
Syngenta still had plenty of legal defenses that "could have substantially reduced or completely eliminated plaintiffs' recovery," Gilbert said in his ruling.
Under the settlement deal, attorneys for the plaintiffs will receive about $40.7 million for legal costs and fees, which is nearly 40 percent of the award.
Nearly 2,000 water utilities will each receive $5,000 to pay for 20 water tests. The remaining funds will be split among the providers depending on their size, atrazine levels and how long the chemical has been detected in their water, according to court records.
-- Mateusz Perkowski