Weitz & Luxenberg has filed a federal class action lawsuit against six producers of firefighting foam used on military bases that led to the contamination of water supplies in Pennsylvania’s Bucks and Montgomery counties with the chemicals PFOS and PFOA.
“For years, residents living near military bases in eastern Pennsylvania were unknowingly exposed to dangerous chemicals in their drinking water,” said Robin Greenwald, head of the Environmental and Consumer Protection Unit at Weitz & Luxenberg. “With this lawsuit, we are fighting to ensure that the companies who manufactured and marketed products containing these chemicals – and put their profits ahead of public health in the process – are brought to justice for their wrongdoing.”
Companies named as defendants in the lawsuit are: The 3M Company (formerly known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.); Angus Fire; The Ansul Company; Buckeye Fire Protection Company; Chemguard; and National Foam.
Firefighting Foam Contains Toxic Chemicals
For years, these six companies manufactured the injurious Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) for use by the U.S. Navy and other military branches.
AFFF use was particularly prevalent at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham Township and the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster Township, as the two bases were training sites for firefighting activities. The use of the product in and around military bases has caused widespread water contamination.
The complaint alleges residents in communities surrounding the bases were exposed to high levels of the chemicals for decades without their knowledge. Exposure to PFOS and its sister chemical, PFOA, have been linked to testicular and kidney cancers, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pregnancy-induced hypertension and a number of other conditions. However, the full harm of ingesting these chemicals is not yet fully understood, and epidemiological studies on the chemicals are ongoing.
The Environmental Protection Agency places the acceptable limit for PFOS in a water supply at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Testing conducted in Warrington Township in 2014 and 2015 detected levels as high as 1600 ppt.
Manufacturer to Be Held Accountable
The complaint states that, as the manufacturers of AFFF, the defendants knew or should have known that the inclusion of PFOS and other similar chemicals in firefighting foam would present a major risk to human health and the environment, yet the companies failed to warn against this potential for harm. Consequently, the training operations at the two bases resulted in ground water contamination for over 40 years.
“In Pennsylvania, big business once again disregarded public health in favor of boosting their bottom line,” said consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, who spoke with residents at a community meeting in Willow Grove in June and is a consultant to Weitz & Luxenberg. “We need to send the message that these corporations cannot put profits ahead of people’s health; this lawsuit is intended to remedy that wrong.”
Weitz & Luxenberg of counsel attorney Robin Greenwald is heading the team managing the case along with Donald A. Soutar, an associate attorney working in the Environmental Pollution practice.