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$23.5 Million Settlement for PFOA Contamination in Petersburgh, N.Y.

October 5, 2021
Home Firm News $23.5 Million Settlement for PFOA Contamination in Petersburgh, N.Y.

Weitz & Luxenberg attorneys reached another environmental lawsuit success with the announcement of a $23.5 million proposed settlement with Taconic Plastics Limited. The settlement is for the residents of Petersburgh, New York, for exposure to PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) water contamination. It follows shortly after the settlement for Hoosick Falls, N.Y. residents less than 3 months ago for the same contamination of their drinking water.

In addition to our attorneys under Robin L. Greenwald, head of Weitz & Luxenberg’s Environmental, Toxic Tort & Consumer Protection Unit, the negotiating team for the settlement included James J. Bilsborrow of Seeger Weiss LLP and Stephen Schwarz and Hadley Lundback Matarazzo of Faraci Lange.

People in Petersburgh drank water contaminated with PFOA for years without knowing their water was putting their health and welfare at risk. Under the settlement, residents of the town — as well as business and property owners — will receive compensation for their exposure to this “forever chemical.”

The settlement agreement is for Burdick v. Tonaga, Inc., dba Taconic. This lawsuit was the first case of its kind — for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) pollution — in New York state.

Financial Payments and Medical Monitoring

In addition to financial compensation, the settlement includes a desired and significant medical monitoring program.

Under the terms of the settlement, three funds are established: (1)

  • The first pays roughly $4 million for property owners who use the town’s small public water system.
  • The second fund pays another roughly $4 million to residents with private wells contaminated by the toxic chemicals.
  • The third fund sets up a 15-year medical monitoring program. This is the largest funded amount, with approximately $8 million allocated. Individuals qualify for medical monitoring if they have a specific level of PFOA detected in their blood. PFOA is responsible for a number of health issues, including thyroid disease, testicular cancer, and kidney cancer.

Justice for Clients

We are proud this settlement goes toward compensating our clients for their losses, as well as for monitoring their health to detect potential long-term effects from exposure to the PFOA they have been drinking for many years. It helps provides justice for the residents, by holding Taconic accountable for its negligence.

“PFOAs chemicals stay in your body and drinking water for many years, and possibly forever. Companies that manufacture products containing PFOA know this, including Taconic which allowed this contamination to occur and to risk people’s health – now and in the future. The contamination also caused a negative effect on property values in the area. When these chemicals are discharged, there is significant risk to the environment as well as human health,” explains Ms. Greenwald.

“To obtain justice for our clients, we have to send a message loud and clear to companies like Taconic. It knew the health risks when it put PFOA into the environment, but never told the residents the water they were drinking could make them seriously ill – even die,” she continues.

“Taconic, and many other companies that also contaminate the environment with their toxic chemicals, need to be held accountable for their lack of caring and compassion for the people and towns they affect,” insists Ms. Greenwald.

PFOA Lawsuit Against Taconic

Petersburgh is located in the Rensselaer County, New York. It is a small town with roughly 1,500 residents.

Taconic Plastics is a manufacturer. Its facility in Petersburgh generated PFOA waste and released it into the town and its environs, including the water system. PFOA in liquid solutions was heated and vaporized. Smokestacks let the vapor escape and be carried via wind into the nearby community.

PFOA-containing substances in the plant’s sinks and drains were improperly disposed of, including wastewater being discharged into the septic system and garbage bags being left at the Petersburgh landfill.

Even though Taconic knew that its disposal of PFOA could make people sick and hurt the environment, it did nothing until after the lawsuit was filed. Taconic funded a water treatment system shortly after the lawsuit was filed. The system was intended to fix the situation with the drinking water supply by removing the PFOA.

PFOA is found in numerous consumer products. It is used on many coatings, such as Teflon. Taconic makes coated fabrics, tapes and belts.

Petersburgh PFOA Lawsuit History

This settlement comes at the end of a long road for the residents of Petersburgh. As of February 2016, residents in Petersburgh knew their water was contaminated.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stated the Taconic facility was a Superfund site in May 2016. (2) Also in May, it was announced, “A new filtration system to remove PFOA is fully operational.” (3) A granular activated carbon (GAC) treatment system was installed. It removes PFOA from municipal water. (4)

Weitz & Luxenberg, in coordination with other experienced law firms, filed a class action lawsuit against Taconic in fall 2017. It was certified as the first class action PFOA pollution case in New York state in July 2018. W&L attorneys served as lead counsel.

A judge on the New York Supreme Court ruled the lawsuit could proceed in late January 2020. The proposed settlement was reached October 1, 2021.

W&L Wins Environmental Lawsuits

Over the last few months, attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg have successfully settled several long-standing environmental lawsuits. Our clients are benefitting from the compensation and medical monitoring we won for them.

In addition to the PFOA lawsuits in Petersburgh and Hoosick Falls, W&L attorneys were key in a recent settlement over a methane gas leak at Aliso Canyon in Porter Ranch, California.

Our history of wins for our clients includes an MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) $423 million settlement. We won in our battle against several large oil companies that contaminated public water systems with this toxic chemical.

Also recently, Ms. Greenwald was co-lead counsel for a settlement against Monsanto. Our clients were exposed to glyphosate from Roundup weed killer and diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Additionally, she played a huge part in the litigation over the BP oil spill. She helped clients get their share of an $18.7 billion settlement. BP was responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. It affected people’s health, businesses, and the environment in the Gulf Coast in 2010.

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