Borough Claims 3M is Responsible for Chemicals in Water

The Borough of Hopatcong, a New Jersey town, alleged in a complaint filed on Friday in the District of New Jersey that 3M Company, a chemical company, should have been aware that it was releasing harmful chemicals which would “threaten public health and welfare” and “pollute drinking water supplies.”

They claimed two toxic substances, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), both known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), were released by the company into the public drinking water because of the way the chemicals were manufactured or handled. “3M knew or should have known that PFAS is a toxin and is persistent when released into the environment and presents significant risks to groundwater, drinking water supplies and human health,” the complaint stated.

The borough alleged that 3M knew the chemicals would be released into the environment when they marketed and sold the products, but did not warn others of the risks. It claimed that 3M’s acts were “done maliciously.” 3M is a large company that does business in New Jersey but its principal place of business is in St. Paul, Minn. The company has operations in at least 29 states, including the plant referenced in the lawsuit in Flemington, New Jersey.

The plaintiff is seeking payment for damages done to its property, for costs incurred investigating the problem and monitoring contamination in its water supply, and for treatment systems needed to filter the water. The water system serves about 7,000 people and uses groundwater and wells.

The complaint says exposure to PFAS is associated with altered growth in infants and children, lowered chance of pregnancy in women, increased cholesterol, interference with hormone levels, and an increased risk of some cancers and ulcerative colitis. The complaint says internal studies done by 3M concluded that the chemicals were toxic as early as the 1950s.

The complaint, however, says the defendant “denies that the presence of any PFAS in any individual’s blood, at any level, is an injury or presents any harm or risk of harm of any kind, or is otherwise of any legal, toxicological, or medical significance.”

The plaintiff, represented by Douglas & London, P.C. filed claims of negligence, failure to warn, public and private nuisance, and trespass.