PFAS Water Contamination

Insidious contamination of public water supplies with synthetic chemicals has compromised access to safe drinking water in communities all over the United States. In representing the Suffolk County Water Authority (“SCWA”)—one of the largest public groundwater providers in the country—Hausfeld attorneys advocate for the approximately 1.2 million residents who may otherwise face the long-term costs necessary to treat SCWA’s damaged drinking water supply wells.

PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are highly toxic man-made chemicals used in a wide range of consumer products, including cosmetics, cookware, packaging, cosmetics, and electronics, among others, because they repel grease and water. PFAS is also a known ingredient in industrial products, most significantly aqueous film forming foam (“AFFF”), commonly known as firefighting foam. AFFF has been used in military exercises for decades, such as firefighting and explosion drills. When PFAS are used, disposed of, and released onto the land, they migrate into groundwater and pollute drinking water supplies. In SCWA’s case, they have extensively contaminated the public drinking water in Long Island, New York.

Exposure to PFAS can interfere with the body’s hormone production (called “endocrine disruptors”), interfere with the reproductive system and fetal development, affect the immune system and promote certain cancers. Deemed “forever chemicals,” they persist in a natural environment long after other chemicals degrade, making them difficult and costly to remove.

To combat the adulteration of SCWA’s water supply, Hausfeld’s environmental team has studied PFAS for years and worked with experts to craft the most effective strategies to hold the leading AFFF manufacturers accountable. SCWA filed suit against these companies, specifically 3M Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard Inc., Tyco Fire Products LP, and National Foam, Inc., in November of 2017 in the Eastern District of New York. SCWA alleges that the defendants produced, marketed or sold AFFF to be used in firefighting training exercises and emergencies when they knew or should have known that PFAS would likely contaminate drinking water wells and present significant risks to human health and welfare if released into the environment. SCWA seeks to recover the substantial costs of restoring its damaged drinking water supply wells and protecting the public from harm.

SCWA’s case was consolidated in an MDL with approximately 500 other AFFF-related cases before Judge Richard Gergel on December 7, 2018 in In Re Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFF) Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2873 (D.S.C.). Richard Lewis serves on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee and several other Hausfeld lawyers serve on MDL committees, including the Law & Briefing Committee and the Public Water Supplier Committee. Since 2018, the water supplier cases against leading AFFF manufacturers 3M and DuPont were developed through extensive fact and expert discovery, surviving dispositive motion practice and Daubert challenges. On the eve of the first bellwether trial, 3M and DuPont reached proposed settlements with the water provider class, subsequently approved by Judge Gergel. With 3M settling for $12.5 billion and DuPont settling for $1.185 billion, they are collectively considered the largest drinking water settlement in American history.

The MDL continues against the remaining defendants.