The 3M Company and five others have been hit with a class action lawsuit from Pennsylvania residents who say their well water has been contaminated by chemicals and toxic compounds manufactured and sold by the defendants.
The suit takes issue with Aqueious Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which was used by firefighters in the U.S. Navy. According to the suit, AFFF was used at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Pennsylvania and the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster Township.
How Does the Suit Say the Chemicals Got into Drinking Water?
The lawsuit claims that AFFF was stored at the naval bases and used as firefighting foam. It is believed that the foam may have been “accidentally discharged” and even washed down the drains when the aircraft hangers were cleaned, according to the complaint. As a result, the suit says, the toxic and hazardous chemicals in the foam entered the groundwater of Horsham, Warrington and Warminster Townships, contaminating private drinking wells and the public water supply.
What’s So Dangerous About the Chemicals?
The suit claims that AFFF contains perfluoroochemical compounds (PFCs), such as perfluorooctanesulforic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which have been linked to serious health risks. These can reportedly include:
- Bladder, thyroid, testicular and kidney cancer
- High cholesterol
- Hypertension in pregnant women
- Ulcerative colitis
- Thyroid disease
PFOA is particularly dangerous, the suit says, because risks are present even when the chemical is ingested in very low levels – and can stay in the body for extended periods of time.
What Does the Suit Say the Companies Did Wrong?
The suit says that the defendants – which also include Angus Fire, The Ansul Company, Buckeye Fire Protection, Chemguard and National Foam – knew about the dangers of PFCs and used them anyway.
In 2002, 3M reportedly stopped making products with PFOS because of health and environmental concerns. The suit claims that 3M knew about the danger of PFOS before it stopped using the chemical, however, and notes that the two Pennsylvania naval bases still used AFFF until they were shut down in 2011. Furthermore, none of the other companies named in the suit recalled products with PFOS after 2002, according to the suit.
The suit also claims that the labels and warnings on the AFFF “do not adequately describe the scope of danger associated with the use” and do not provide “proper and adequate instructions and warnings regarding the storage, use and disposal of AFFF.”
This isn’t the first time 3M has been in trouble over the use of chemicals in its products. In late 2015, the company was hit with another class action lawsuit alleging that it knew the harm of using perfluorinated chemicals in several of its products, including, but not limited to, Scotchguard and carpet coating. Five years prior, the Minnesota Attorney General filed a complaint against the company accusing it of polluting groundwater near 3M’s Cottage Grove plant, as well as drinking water in some areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The suit claims that the company dumped chemical wastewater in a stream that leads to the Mississippi River, as well as on land nearby.
What Is the Suit Looking to Accomplish?
The suit claims that class members are not only at risk for serious health effects, but have also suffered a loss in property value on their homes because of the water contamination.
In addition to monetary damages, the suit is asking for injunctive relief, including, but not limited to:
- A blood serum testing program
- Medical monitoring program
- Testing protocol for the wells
- The installation of permanent filtration devices on wells that test positive for PFCs
Stories of PFCs contaminating drinking water have been popping up all over the world and, hopefully, this new suit will bring justice to the people of Pennsylvania.