A water district in Alameda County, CA, filed a lawsuit against 3M, DuPont and other companies that previously or currently manufactured so-called “forever chemicals.” The lawsuit has been transferred to multidistrict litigation (MDL) in South Carolina, Law360.com reports.
The term “forever chemicals” refers to the synthetic compounds per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which have earned their nickname because they take decades or even centuries to biodegrade.
The lawsuit was filed in November by the Alameda County Water District, which serves nearly 350,000 people. It alleges that 3M and DuPont, as well as two dozen other defendants, knew that since the 1960s, the PFAS chemicals they were manufacturing were toxic and leached into the drinking water system.
In addition to being present in drinking water supplies, PFAS are ubiquitous in many products, including aqueous firefighting foam (AFFF), nonstick coatings, water- and stain-proofing compounds, paper and cloth coatings, and waxes.
Alameda County Water District’s lawsuit joined the PFAS MDL on Jan. 4. The PFAS MDL was first approved in 2018. The MDL has grown from a consolidated 75 cases to nearly 3,600.
Plaintiffs include 200 water districts, 13 state attorneys general, with thousands of personal injury claims and several hundred public entity property damage claims. The lawsuits allege that PFAS chemicals have created both an environmental health and human-health hazard, contaminating water supplies and causing numerous health problems, including reproductive issues, developmental delays in children, increased risk of cancer and reduced immune abilities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The first PFAS firefighting foam bellwether trial is scheduled for June 2023 and involves the city of Stuart, FL vs. Corteva, Inc. and DuPont de Nemours, Inc. Last year, the judge overseeing the MDL, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel, rejected an attempt by the defendants to dismiss the case.
Judge Gergel also ruled against 3M last year, denying the company’s claim for immunity based on the fact that it is a government contractor. Judge Gergel also found that 3M “knowingly withheld the risks of PFAS for decades.”
Other firefighting foam PFAS cases that may go to trial in the near future include a lawsuit filed by Sioux Falls, SD and Ayer, MA. Those cases have not received a trial date as of this writing.
The PFAS lawsuit umbrella also includes personal injury cases. The case of a class action lawsuit in Ohio brought forth by plaintiffs who allege that they have high levels of PFAS concentrations in their bloodstream is being considered by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. 3M, Chemours and other PFAS makers have asked the Sixth Circuit to overturn the certification of the class action.
Those two companies agreed in 2017 to pay over $600 million to resolve another PFAS MDL, which centered around dumping PFAS chemicals into the environment around the Ohio River.
3M announced in 2022 that it will discontinue making PFAS chemicals by 2025.