News Feature | May 31, 2022

'Seismic Shift' In Legal Landscape Seeks To Hold Polluters Accountable For PFAS Contamination

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


The prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water sources around the country continues to be one of the most insurmountable treatment challenges in the space, as these compounds are notoriously difficult to remove from effluent and have been tied to acute health problems for consumers. As the nation grapples with the threat of PFAS, though, solutions to the problem are now evolving far beyond treatment efforts and targeting those industrial operations that introduced these chemicals into the environment in the first place.
“Over the past two years, there’s been a seismic shift in the legal landscape as awareness of PFAS has expanded,” Bloomberg Law reported. “If PFAS went into a company’s finished product, odds are it’s being sued.”
Companies that manufacture a wide range of items, from food containers to carpeting, have utilized PFAS in their processes, with the chemicals then accumulating in water and soil. Companies like DuPont, 3M Co., and Dynax Corp. are facing thousands of PFAS-related lawsuits in federal court, with total liabilities potentially reaching $30 billion.
For plaintiffs like the City of San Diego, the lawsuits are focused on attempts by these companies to cover up awareness that their industrial practices could eventually harm consumers.
“The City of San Diego is suing more than 20 companies over decades-long water contamination from toxic chemicals called PFAS,” CBS8 reported. “The lawsuit claims manufacturers like 3M, DuPont, and Raytheon made firefighting foam that contained PFAS and alleges the companies concealed ‘knowledge about the grave environmental and human health dangers of these compounds.’”
For their part, however, many manufacturers are pushing back on the notion that they willfully caused harm by utilizing PFAS in their products.
“Manufacturers deny many of the claims raised in recent lawsuits and stand by their environmental records and their products,” per Bloomberg Law. “3M has contributed more than $1 billion to PFAS remediation and environmental projects.”
But, regardless of intent, the fact that PFAS — known as “forever chemicals” because of their long-lasting impacts — are so prevalent in the environment means that water systems around the country are at the frontlines of this issue. While holding polluters accountable may be important, treatment of these contaminants is the only way to protect consumers from existing PFAS.
To read more about how drinking water treatment plants remove PFAS from effluent, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.