New York Town Brings ‘Forever Chemical’ Water Supply Contamination Complaint

On Tuesday, the town of New Windsor sued the federal government, the state of New York, chemical manufacturing companies, and myriad other defendants for allegedly tainting its drinking water with per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The complaint contended that PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) were used in training exercises and to extinguish fires at Stewart International Airport (SIA) and a nearby Air Force base. From there, the lingering chemicals reportedly seeped into the soil and groundwater, contaminating the town’s drinking water supply.

The complaint explained that New Windsor, located in Orange County, New York, supplies water for its 30,000 residents. The filing grouped the defendants into three classes, claiming that the federal government, in concert with the 3M Company, developed PFAS in the mid-1960s.

Since then, the Department of Defense (DOD) has reportedly mandated the use of PFAS-containing AFFFs at Air Force bases, including at the one near Windsor, and at federally funded civilian airports, including SIA. The owners and operators of these facilities, another grouping of defendants, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Federal Express Corporation, reportedly caused these PFAS-containing products to be improperly stored, discharged, and discarded.

The complaint also accused more than two dozen chemical manufacturers of creating the PFAS products responsible for the present contamination. According to the complaint, some manufacturer defendants knew that PFAS posed risks to human health and the environment but ignored those warnings to earn millions.

The complaint seeks injunctive relief ordering the defendants to abate the public nuisance they have created and to remediate damage to the towns’ wells and water facilities. New Windsor also seeks compensatory, consequential, and punitive damages for the alleged present and future harm caused and endangerment of the town and its citizens.

New Windsor is represented by Westervelt & Rea LLP.

The town joins other plaintiffs, like Weirton, West Virginia, and the Pennsylvania-American Water Company, who have sued chemical manufacturers for their role in the creation and dispersion of PFAS into water supplies. Also, in January, DuPont de Nemours, Corteva, and The Chemours Company announced a $4 billion PFAS settlement and the resolution of separate Ohio multidistrict litigation for $83 million.