Massachusetts AG sues major PFAS manufacturers

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Attorney General Maura Healey speaks during a press conference on Wednesday.

REGION – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Wednesday announced a major lawsuit against more than a dozen manufacturers of PFAS chemicals used in firefighting foam. 

Flanked by Shrewsbury Fire Chief Jim Vuona and area State Representative Kate Hogan, among several others, Healey touted the lawsuit as an accountability measure following PFAS contamination issues in communities across Massachusetts. 

“Today we are taking action and seeking accountability that our residents and our communities deserve,” she said in a press conference. 

Legislator discusses burden on communities

Formally known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl chemicals, PFAS chemicals have increasingly been a topic of discussion in recent years, with various contamination incidents prompting, at times, major responses from individual municipalities. 

In Hudson, the town installed new filters aimed at mitigating PFAS prevalence in water. The town also settled in litigation with a local company beleived to have contributed to PFAS contamination.

Shrewsbury launched a pilot program aimed at addressing PFAS, while other communities have similarly grappled with the problem.

Exposure to these chemicals is believed to potentially lead to a variety of 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.

Speaking on Wednesday, Hogan said her district, which includes Hudson, Stow and Maynard, had been “hard hit” by PFAS.

“I can attest to the burden that is placed on our towns as they navigate PFAS challenges in real time,” she said.

“It’s challenging for small municipalities to determine the most effective path for identifying and remediating contamination,” she continued. “And a lack of coordinated resources only compounds this challenge.”

Hogan applauded Healey’s actions and complimented the state Department of Environmental Protection for its work with local communities to address PFAS. 

“Attorney General Healey and Massachusetts are sending a strong message to manufacturers that the state will no longer tolerate those companies endangering our residents, our firefighters and our natural resources,” Hogan said.

Lawsuit targets 13 manufacturers, two other companies

Healey’s lawsuit specifically targets thirteen manufacturers and two companies that allegedly “shielded assets that should be available to remedy the damages caused by PFAS contamination.” 

Companies include 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.

The suit argues that manufacturers knew about the “serious dangers” that PFAS posed while manufacturing, marketing and selling firefighting foam products to governments, municipalities, and local fire departments, among other customers.  

“It’s not only dangerous,” Healey said of this on Wednesday. “It is illegal.”

Companies further never warned customers “even as they belatedly transitioned to other formulas or phased out production,” according to Healey. 

The lawsuit complaint accuses companies of hiding negative information about the toxicity of their products, alleging that companies submitted false information to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, among other things.

Some defendants then tried to avoid liability for these issues through certain “corporate transactions,” according to the lawsuit. 

Healey said this suit seeks compensation for damage caused by PFAS while also seeking money to “clean up and remove, restore, treat, and monitor PFAS contamination.” 

Suit follows PFAS Task Force report

As Healey’s lawsuit moves forward in court, it follows recent work by the state’s PFAS Interagency Task Force. 

Co-chaired by Hogan, the task force recently issued eight recommendations in its final report, including a recommendation to reduce the use of PFAS-containing, aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). 

That could involve disposing of existing stockpiles and purchasing new, safer foam to use in the future. 

Fire departments could be asked to report releases of AFFF, under the task force’s recommendation. 

Shrewsbury Fire Chief shares thoughts

Looking to address the consequences of PFAS chemical contamination, leaders continued to celebrate recent legal action this week while criticizing those allegedly responsible.

“For far too long, manufacturers have eluded responsibility for damages to public health and the environment caused by PFAS in firefighting foam,” Hogan said. “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.”

Vuona shared his thoughts, speaking in his newly appointed role as the President of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts and noting inherently increased exposure risks that firefighters handling PFAS-containing foams face. 

“As firefighters and fire officers we accept the inherent dangers of our chosen professions,” he said on Wednesday. “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 [a] potential life-threatening risk for any member of the fire service,” he continued. 

Lawsuit filed in South Carolina court

Announced this week, this lawsuit is one of several emerging across the country against those involved in PFAS contamination issues. 

It has been filed in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina to coordinate with other pending litigation.

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