Industrial Water Disasters – NJ Sues Polluters Over PFOA Foam- Used in Firefighting
NJ Sierra Club reports 5.14.2019 – Trenton, NJ: Today, Attorney General Grewal, DEP Commissioner McCabe, and Acting Division of Consumer Affairs Director Paul Rodríguez announced a suit against 3M, DuPont, and others for manufacturing or selling toxic chemicals in firefighting foam product. These companies have been selling these products for decades despite knowing the dangers they pose to public health. Many sites in New Jersey such as the Naval Air Station at Willow Grove and the NJ Joint Base McGuire- Dix Lakehurst used firefighting foams and have prevalent contamination of PFAS.
“For too long, companies like DuPont and 3M knew they were selling toxic products to people. They lied about the use of firefighting foam and knew it was harmful but went along with it anyway. This is just shameful. It is critical that Attorney General Grewal has stepped up and will make sure these companies are accountable for what they have done. They need to clean up their mess and compensate for the damages to the environment, our drinking water, and fisheries. This lawsuit is a critical step in the battle to going after these dangerous chemicals that have been dumped,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Attorney General Grewal is responding to the criticism by DuPont and others that have overreached by going after them directly on harmful firefighter foam containing PFAs.”
The lawsuit includes both environmental and consumer fraud claims and seeks NRD along with other damages and penalties. The State’s complaint names the following manufacturers and sellers as defendants: The 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products LP, Chemguard, Inc., Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Kidde-Fenwal, Inc., National Foam, Inc., E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, and The Chemours Company. Specifically, the complaint alleges PFOS and PFOA released from AFFF has contaminated groundwater and surface water in New Jersey – including several lakes – as well as sediment and a variety of wildlife species. The complaint seeks natural resource damages for the PFOS and PFOA contamination.
“DuPont said they are not accountable for other people using their foam products. Attorney General Grewal said all along they are responsible under the NJ Spill Act. Second, they withheld information, covered the effects, and promoted the use of their product which makes them clearly responsible. Almost 20% of the people in New Jersey are exposed to PFOS and PFOA. We have even found PFOS in our fish, even from the most pristine areas. PFOS have already been found at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, surrounding areas in Burlington County which means the Department of Defense is accountable for cleaning up the base site,” said Tittel. “Chemicals from the firefighting foam have also been found near the Atlantic City Airport which also makes FAA are responsible for cleaning up the contamination.”
The federal Environmental Protection Agency detected PFOA in levels of at least 20 parts per billion in 14 drinking water systems, including Ridgewood Water, Fair Lawn, Garfield, Wallington and Hawthorne.
High levels of the chemical were also found in Burlington County, New Jersey, in a stream that runs from a wastewater plant at the Maguire-Fort Dix-Lakehurst military base to Rancocas Creek. PFOAs and PFAs are also associated with serious health risks, including testicular and kidney cancer; liver tissue damage; weakened immune systems and increased cholesterol; and developmental problems like low birth weight, accelerated puberty and skeletal variations.
This is another suit that New Jersey has filed against companies like DuPont. In March, Attorney General Grewal and DEP Commissioner McCabe announced multiple enforcement actions targeting 4 DuPont Sites. Two weeks later, the NJDEP published interim standards for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These chemicals were used in products ranging from Teflon pans to stain-resistant clothing to firefighting foams.
“It is critical that New Jersey moves forward with adopting strict standards for these harmful chemicals so that our drinking water is protected. These harmful chemicals can lead to developmental defects in children and pregnant women, liver and kidney problems, and even tumors. It is important for the sake of our public health that the state will make sure the chemicals are cleaned up,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank the Attorney General for standing up to polluters. This lawsuit is one of many parts to hold polluters accountable for their damage they have done to our health and the environment’s health. Enforcement is a deterrent and will make polluters pay, that is what the Attorney General is doing so that polluters pay for their mess, not the public.”