A Wisconsin city filed a lawsuit on Monday against multiple manufacturers of toxic substances knowns as PFAS, claiming the chemical makers should be responsible for more than $20 million in expected costs to clean up PFAS-contaminated water supplies.
The legal action by the city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin adds to a rapidly expanding mass of US litigation that targets 3M, DuPont and other companies for allegedly knowingly contaminating the environment for decades with harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
“The PFAS manufacturers, not the public, should be responsible for these costs,” Eau Claire city officials said in a statement. “These companies knew long ago that PFAS chemicals were harmful yet failed to warn the public or remove the product from the market, all the while profiting greatly from its continued sale.”
Costs for the city to mitigate PFAS-contaminated water have already exceeded $1 million, according to the city.
PFAS have been widely used for decades around the world in an array of industrial processes and consumer products for their thermal stability and stain- and water-repellent properties. They are present in pizza boxes, plastics, paints and thousands of other products. PFAS have also been widely used at military bases and airports.
Some types of PFAS have been linked to kidney and prostate cancer, liver dysfunction, high cholesterol, and reproductive problems, among other health problems.
PFAS chemicals have been found in the water supplies of communities around the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More than 200 million Americans nationwide could have PFAS chemicals in their drinking water, according to estimates by the Environmental Working Group, an environmental research and advocacy group.
In June, 3M agreed to pay $10.3 billion to help cover the costs of testing and treat public water supplies nationwide but the company faces additional ongoing litigation over widespread PFAS contamination.