PFAS Water and Land Contamination

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PFAS Water and Land Contamination Lawyers

PFAS chemicals, synthetic per/polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or perflourinated chemicals, are called “forever chemicals” because they accumulate and are persistent in the environment. The bioaccumulation of these chemicals in ground and drinking water, animals, people and the agricultural products they consume can have significant and substantial adverse consequences.

Military bases, manufacturers, wastewater treatment plants and other facilities have been identified as sources of PFAS environmental contamination. Communities at or near these facilities have suffered significant damages to property, natural resources and potential adverse health effects as a result of negligent disposal practices, for which the responsible parties should be held accountable.

Studies conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have established that these chemicals are highly toxic and hazardous to the environment and human health. PFAS chemicals have the ability to travel long distances, contaminating groundwater. According to the CDC, the mobility of PFAS increases the likelihood that communities around PFAS manufacturing, or facilities using PFAS containing chemicals, are likely to be adversely impacted.

At Fulmer Sill, we currently represent the State of Oklahoma and proudly stand up for cities, counties, rural water districts and Tribes whose water supplies have been contaminated. dealing with contaminated water sources and land. Fulmer Sill has a long history of working with public entities, including states, Tribes, cities and counties in navigating complex litigations.

PFAS Contamination and Health Effects

PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1950s to provide grease, water and oil resistant properties to consumer products. Common uses include non-stick coating on cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, firefighting foams, and even some cosmetics. Wrongfully disposing of PFAS chemicals, including dumping the toxin into water sources and soil can lead to widespread contamination.

Repeated exposure to PFAS, including through drinking water, food grown in contaminated soil or packaged in contaminated materials, as well as the biodegradation of consumer products, causes them to accumulate in the body, without the ability to break down, according to the CDC.

The CDC has reported that studies of humans with PFAS exposure have shown a number of severe health complications, including:

  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Effects on growth, and behavioral effects in infants and older children
  • Reduced chances of pregnancy
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Resistance to childhood vaccines

PFAS litigation

The 3M Company (3M) and E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) have each announced multi-billion dollar settlements for claims against both manufacturers related to drinking water contamination in Public Water Systems (PWS) caused by PFAS. It is important to note that neither company admits liability and these settlements are likely to represent only a small portion of the costs incurred by PWS for the design and installation of water treatment, and of the ongoing costs of maintenance. In addition, this round of settlements is focused on public drinking water supply systems and does not include future potential claims from wastewater treatment facilities, fire training areas, and local airports.

PFAS cases pending throughout the country include:

  • The State of Minnesota sued 3M in 2010, alleging that the company’s production of PFAS chemicals damaged drinking water and natural resources in the southeast Twin Cities metro area. The lawsuit was settled in February 2018 for $850 million.
  • 3,550 plaintiffs from the mid-Ohio Valley in West Virginia filed suit alleging that 210 occurrences of kidney cancer, 70 occurrences of testicular cancer, and 1,430 occurrences of thyroid disease were linked to chemical exposure. The plaintiffs settled with DuPont and the Chemours Company for $921 million.
  • Daikin America Inc., and 3M were sued over chemicals the companies used in the production process at their Decatur, Ala., facilities. The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority settled with Daikin for $4 million.
  • The state of New York filed a complaint against manufacturers of AFFF in June 2018, alleging groundwater contamination in Newburgh, New Windsor, Suffolk County, Plattsburgh, and Rome, N.Y.
  • Several lawsuits have been filed in North Carolina by the North Carolina Department of Justice, the Department of Environmental Quality, Brunswick County, and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, against manufacturer of GenX. Three class actions on behalf of residents who consumed PFAS contaminated water from the Cape Fear River and wells near the Fayetteville Works Facility in Fayetteville, N.C., have also been filed.

EPA PFAS regulation

Perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are the two most commonly used and studied PFAS compounds, with PFOA being produced by eight major companies in the United States:

  • 3M/Dyneon
  • Akrema
  • Asahi
  • Ciba
  • Clariant
  • Daikin
  • DuPont
  • Solvay Solexis

3M is the sole producer of PFOS in the United States. These and other companies use PFOA and PFOS to manufacture certain fluorosurfactants known for their repellant qualities, such as DuPont’s Teflon and 3M’s Scotchgard.

The EPA states that it is “committed to supporting states, tribes and local communities” that are addressing challenges caused by PFAS exposure near manufacturing sites and other contaminated locations. While the agency has taken steps to address the presence of PFAS in drinking water, including announcing new methods to test for the chemicals in December 2019, it has not fully regulated PFAS chemicals.

In February 2019, the EPA released a PFAS Action Plan, in which it stated plans to move forward with a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) process for PFOS and PFOA, which will set a legal threshold on the amount of PFOS and PFOA allowed in public water systems under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The EPA also plans to propose nationwide drinking water monitoring, and will work with federal, state, tribal, and local partners to effectively communicate PFAS risks to the public. The EPA is also considering adding PFAS chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory, which would make information about reports of certain PFAS releases publicly available.

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