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PFAS lawsuits continue as California sues 3M for groundwater pollution

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The Water Replenishment District of Southern California, pictured, wants a court to order companies to pay for investigating and cleaning up wells that have allegedly been affected by PFAS contamination. Photo credit: WRD

California’s largest groundwater agency is suing 3M and a series of other companies it believes are responsible for “knowingly” polluting groundwater with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS.

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD), which oversees drinking water supplied to 43 cities in Los Angeles County, or four million residents in the U.S.’ most populous county, alleges in a new lawsuit that the companies knew but failed to warn against the “inherently dangerous nature” and risks around PFAS.

The synthetic chemicals — known carcinogens — are very persistent in the environment and the human body, having earned the nickname “forever chemicals”.

“The defendants knew, foresaw, and/or should have known and/or foreseen that their marketing, promotion, development, manufacture, distribution, release, training of users, production of instructional materials about, sale and/or use of PFAS containing materials, including in California, would result in the contamination of the groundwater that is the primary source of water supply within plaintiff’s service area,” states the agency’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

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The agency notes in its official complaint that 3M operates two manufacturing facilities within proximity to several contaminated wells within the plaintiff’s service area at 2724 Peck Road.

The agency also suggests that by the early 1960s, 3M understood that some PFAS do not degrade.The groundwater agency seeks a ruling ordering the companies to pay for investigating and cleaning up wells that have been contaminated with the chemical compound used in fluorochemical products such as Teflon, Scotchguard, waterproofing compounds, stain-proofing compounds, waxes, paper and cloth coatings, and aqueous film-forming foam, which is a firefighting agent used to control and extinguish Class B fuel fires.

The WRD has approved $34 million in expenditures to construct water treatment plants to remove PFAS, according to the complaint.

In addition to 3M, the lawsuit targets a long list of companies that the agency suggests designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and/or sold PFOA and PFOS (the chemical precursors of PFOA and PFOS), and/or products containing PFOA and PFOS. Some of the other companies named include Old DuPont, The Chemours Company, and Corteva Inc.

WRD will be represented by SL Environmental Law, which specializes in water contamination litigation.

Earlier this summer, 3M was part of a settlement in relation to another PFAS lawsuit out of a village in upstate New York. The company has also recently settled PFAS lawsuits in Alabama.

In early November, North Carolina launched lawsuits against 3M Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc. and other manufacturers over alleged PFAS contamination.

The lawsuits have emerged just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is preparing a rule that would list PFAS as hazardous substances that must be eliminated from industrial waste before it is discarded.

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