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Press Release AG Healey Sues Manufacturers of Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals for Contaminating Massachusetts Drinking Water and Damaging Natural Resources

Exposure to PFAS Poses Serious Risks to Public Health; Complaint Seeks Payment for Contaminated Water Supplies and Damages to Natural Resources Caused by PFAS-Containing Firefighting Foam
For immediate release:
5/25/2022
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Manufacturers of Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals for Contaminating Massachusetts Drinking Water and Damaging Natural Resources

Chloe Gotsis

BOSTONAttorney General Maura Healey today sued 13 manufacturers of poly- and perfluoroalkyl (PFAS) “forever” chemicals used in firefighting foam for causing millions of dollars in damages to communities across Massachusetts by knowingly contaminating drinking water sources, groundwater, and other natural resources with highly toxic PFAS chemicals that pose a serious threat to public health and the environment. The suit also names two companies that shielded assets that should be available to remedy the damages caused by PFAS contamination.

The AG’s complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, alleges the manufacturers repeatedly violated state and federal laws protecting drinking water and prohibiting consumer deception by marketing, manufacturing, and selling PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) to government entities, counties, municipalities, local fire departments, businesses and residents in Massachusetts while knowing of the serious dangers the chemicals posed.

“For decades, these manufacturers knew about the serious risks highly toxic PFAS chemicals pose to public health, the environment, and our drinking water—yet they did nothing about it,” AG Healey said. “As a result of this deception, our municipalities are spending millions of dollars to provide safe drinking water to their residents. I am suing today to hold these manufacturers accountable, require them to pay the growing costs these communities are shouldering, and repair our state’s precious natural resources that have been damaged by these illegal actions.”

“Since taking office, our Administration has provided over $110 million in funding to address PFAS contamination, including establishing strict standards for PFAS in drinking water and awarding funding to public water suppliers to help address PFAS contamination,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We appreciate Attorney General Healey for her partnership in this matter and appreciate everyone’s collective work to protect Massachusetts’ drinking water sources.”

“The Commonwealth continues to take a proactive approach in identifying sources of PFAS in order to protect drinking water supplies and our natural resources,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “The Baker-Polito Administration has worked directly with local communities to address the challenges associated with PFAS in our environment. The AG’s suit against these companies is another momentous step forward in safeguarding our drinking water sources and protecting public health.”

“PFAS contamination has affected a number of communities in Massachusetts, requiring costly immediate and long-term actions,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “With this legal action, the Commonwealth is taking an important step to help us and those communities that are currently bearing the burden of addressing this pollution.”

According to the AG’s lawsuit, the manufacturers’ illegal actions led to the contamination of countless water supplies in Massachusetts, including more than 126 public drinking water systems in 86 communities with serious levels of PFAS contamination such as in  Weymouth, Abington, Rockland, Cape Cod and Stow. The contamination has required massive efforts by these and other municipalities and the expenditure of millions of dollars to address the threat to the public health and the environment.

The 15 companies named in the lawsuitpart of multidistrict litigation that consists of hundreds of lawsuits brought by state attorneys general, municipalities, and private and public water districtsare 3M Company; AGC Chemical Americas, Inc; Archroma U.S. Inc.; Arkema, Inc.; Buckeye Fire Equipment; Chemguard Inc; Clarinet Corporation; Dynax Corporation; E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Kidde-Fenwal Inc.; National Foam Inc; The Chemours Company; Tyco Fire Products LP; Corteva Inc.; and DuPont de Nemours Inc.

According to the AG’s lawsuit, each of these manufacturers at varying times engaged in the design, manufacture, marketing, and/or selling of PFAS-containing AFFF used in Massachusetts. AFFF has been used in the U.S. since the 1960s by the military, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments to suppress flammable liquid fires, including aviation and jet fuel fires, and to help train firefighters and test firefighting equipment. AFFF products can cause hundreds, if not thousands, of gallons of foamy water laced with PFAS to enter the environment in a variety of ways including through soils, sediment, surface water, and groundwater.

The AG’s complaint alleges that the manufacturers sold and produced PFAS-products and deceptively advertised them as safe without human health or environmental risk, when in fact they knew the chemicals were highly toxic and dangerous for the environment. The AG further alleges that the manufacturers also never warned the state or other buyers about the dangers of the PFAS-containing AFFF, even as they belatedly transitioned to other formulas or phased out production.

As alleged in the complaint, to hide negative information about the toxicity of these products, manufacturers submitted false information to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and tried to prevent workers from discussing the risks associated with the chemicals.  The complaint further alleges that some defendants then unlawfully engaged in corporate transactions in order to avoid their liability for their products. Today’s lawsuit asserts claims under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, and the Massachusetts Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, among others.

Exposure to various PFAS, including through contaminated water supplies, can lead to serious health issues, including decreased antibody responses to vaccines, increased risk of childhood infections, developmental issues for children, decreased birthweight, testicular and kidney cancers, ulcerative colitis, liver damage, and thyroid disease.

The AG’s complaint also alleges that the manufacturers’ PFAS-containing AFFF products have and continue to cause serious contamination to the state’s natural resources, including the state’s lakes, streams, and rivers like the Shawsheen River, a tributary of the Merrimack River; coastal zones, including Cape Cod, Cape Ann, Martha’s Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands and their estuaries which provide critical habitat for marine life; sediments, soils and submerged lands that are critical resources for a healthy ecosystem; and thousands of plant species and diverse wildlife.

Today’s lawsuit is seeking costs to clean up and remove, restore, treat, and monitor PFAS contamination and an order requiring the manufacturers to reimburse the state for the damages its products caused. The complaint also demands that the manufacturers remediate and restore the state’s natural resources and pay investigation fees and costs.

AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division has prioritized combatting the growing public health risks associated with PFAS. Since 2019, AG Healey has repeatedly urged Congress and EPA to enact strong regulatory, reporting and monitoring standards for PFAS and to assist states and communities with the costs of drinking water treatment and other clean-up measures. AG Healey’s Office was a member of the Legislature’s PFAS Interagency Task Force that focused on addressing the state’s multifaceted ongoing PFAS-related challenges.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Goldberg, Lou Dundin, and Jillian Riley, as well as Division Chief Betsy Harper, all of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division and Special Assistant Attorneys General John D.S. Gilmour and William Jackson with assistance from MassDEP Deputy Commissioners Gary Moran and Paul Locke, General Counsel Benjamin Ericson, Jeffrey Mickelson, Lucas Rogers and Karen Crocker of the Office of General Counsel, Senior Officials Kathy Baskin, Elizabeth Callahan, Ann Lowery and Mark Smith, and Regional Office Directors Mike Gorski, MaryJude Pigsley, Eric Worrall and Millie Garcia Serrano.

 

Statements of support:

Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland)

“Safe drinking water is a critical resource, and today's actions by Attorney General Maura Healey are a powerful defense of this resource. Exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has been shown to increase the risks of cancer and infertility, as well as developmental delays in children. In 2020 the legislature created a task force to investigate PFAS contamination in our ground and our water supply, and this litigation takes further vital steps to protect our residents and the environment. I thank the Attorney General for her work to ensure that our Commonwealth’s laws and environmental protections are upheld, and I look forward to studying future developments on this issue.

House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy)

“The safety of our drinking water is of paramount importance, which is why I’m proud to support the Attorney General in the effort to hold the manufacturers of PFAS chemicals accountable. In response to the ongoing work done by Speaker Pro Tempore Kate Hogan and the PFAS Commission, the legislature allocated significant funding to support cities and towns as they work to guarantee that the Commonwealth’s public drinking water is safe for everyone. The House looks forward to engaging on this issue in the future as we learn more about the devastating impacts of PFAS chemicals on public health and our environment.”

State Representative Kate Hogan (D-Stow), co-chair of the Legislature’s PFAS Interagency Task Force

“For far too long, manufacturers have eluded responsibility for damages to public health and the environment caused by PFAS in firefighting foam. As a result of their decision to put profits ahead of people, our drinking water is contaminated with PFAS, our residents face health risks from exposure to these chemicals, and our communities are spending millions of dollars on remediation projects. The PFAS Interagency Task Force heard powerful testimony from the firefighting community on the devastating effects of PFAS in firefighting foam and turnout gear. I applaud Attorney General Maura Healey for taking this pivotal step to hold manufacturers accountable and to provide relief to impacted communities. Massachusetts is sending a clear message that the state will not tolerate endangerment of our residents and natural resources.”

Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), co-chair of the Legislature’s PFAS Interagency Task Force

“The widespread use of PFAS since the mid-20th century has resulted in contamination of our waters and environment and poses a risk to human health. There is an urgent need to move swiftly to phase out PFAS usage and attenuate a myriad of environmental and public health impacts. I am grateful for the leadership of Attorney General Maura Healey in holding those accountable for the PFAS contamination we see in our drinking water and environment. I am encouraged to have the Attorney General’s vision and partnership as we work together to ensure Massachusetts leads the way in tackling PFAS.”

Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director & CEO Geoff Beckwith

“On behalf of cities and towns in every corner of our state, we applaud Attorney General Maura Healey's leadership and resolve to hold PFAS manufacturers accountable for years of harm to our environment, public health and worker safety. Municipalities and local taxpayers have been unfairly burdened with the expensive and complex task of removing toxic PFAS chemicals from our groundwater, lakes and streams, and from our public safety workplaces. Attorney General Healey’s legal intervention rightly seeks to place that burden squarely on the manufacturers who have caused this harmful pollution and exposure. Municipal leaders across Massachusetts are deeply grateful to have the Attorney General as a true partner, standing with our cities and towns in the fight to protect our environment and essential workers.” 

Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) President Rich MacKinnon, Jr.

“The PFFM stands with and supports our Attorney General Maura Healey in filing this lawsuit. We value our partnership with the AG in our ongoing battle against occupational cancer that plagues the firefighter profession. Large quantities of PFAS exist in the firefighting foam we use every day, and exposure to these forever chemicals has been linked to many forms of cancer. The public we took an oath to protect is not immune to this problem either, as many of these forever chemicals have made their way into the public water systems. We will continue to work closely with our AG to improve the health and safety of firefighters and the public we serve.”

Shrewsbury Fire Chief James Vuona, President of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts

“On behalf of the Fire Chiefs Association of MA, we fully support the Attorney General's Office and AG Maura Healey in the filing of this action. As firefighters and fire officers we accept the inherent dangers of our chosen professions, we know the risks going in. But the undisclosed, added risk of wearing our protective clothing or using fire suppressing foam should never have factored in as potential life-threatening risk for any member of the fire service.”

Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG Legislative Director

“For too long, our brave firefighters have had their health ironically endangered by the products they use to protect the rest of us. The Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) used to fight certain fires contains toxic PFAS, appropriately nicknamed ‘forever chemicals.’ MASSPIRG thanks Attorney General Maura Healey for suing the manufacturers of this dangerous product. Holding companies responsible for any damage their product causes is a bedrock principle of fairness, accountability and restitution. AG Healey’s action today will hold the polluters accountable and leverage the resources necessary to clean up the toxic waste left behind by this foam.”

Dr. Julia Brody, Executive Director and Senior Scientist at Silent Spring Institute

“We’re glad the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is taking steps to hold PFAS manufacturers accountable for the financial burden that communities are facing as they try to provide their residents with safe drinking water. It’s concerning that these highly persistent and toxic chemicals are so pervasive in drinking water given what we know about their health impacts, even at low levels, and especially among children whose developing bodies are more vulnerable to chemical exposures.”

Laura Spark, Senior Policy Advocate for Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund

“Clean Water Action thanks the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for its decision to join the PFAS multi-district litigation. Firefighting foams containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are a major source of contamination of drinking water in Massachusetts communities near military installations and airports. These foams also contribute to the toxic body burden experienced by firefighters, many of whom have elevated levels of PFAS in their blood. Firefighters also have higher rates of cancer than the general population, including cancers caused by PFAS. We thank the AG’s Office for its vision and leadership in stepping forward to become part of this lawsuit.”

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Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Manufacturers of Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals for Contaminating Massachusetts Drinking Water and Damaging Natural Resources

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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