State Drinking Water Provider Sues a Dozen Chemical Manufacturers Over ‘Forever Chemical’ Contamination

An action filed by the Pennsylvania-American Water Company (PAWC) last October against some of the nation’s biggest chemical makers for their supposed release of Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the Pennsylvania drinking water supply was removed to federal court last week. The civil complaint seeks abatement, damages, and the reimbursement of clean-up costs.

PAWC, a Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, corporation, reportedly provides drinking water to an estimated 2.4 million state residents. According to the filing, PAWC owns and operates 67 public water supply systems and more than 100 active groundwater wells to supply water for the public. The defendants are The3MCompany, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, DuPont de Nemours, Inc., Corteva, Inc., The Chemours Company, The Chemours Company FC, LLC, Dyneon LLC, Kidde-Fenwal, Inc., Angus Fire, The Ansul Company, Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard, Inc., National Foam, Inc., Tyco Fire Products, LP, and 50 unknown entities.

The filing contends that since their creation in the 1940s, PFAS have been incorporated into products to resist heat, oil, grease, and water. These products include a fire suppressant agent that contains PFAS, and is used at airports, fire-fighting training centers, fire-fighting locations, and military facilities.

The plaintiff contends that through their manufacture, distribution, and sale, the defendants released PFAS into the ground and surface waters used by PAWC. The complaint explains that the so-called “forever chemicals” are resistant to environmental degradation processes, and are highly mobile because of their water soluble characteristics. Furthermore, the chemicals, which have been recently identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “emerging contaminants,” are reportedly harmful to human health because they have been linked to thyroid disease and immune deficiencies.

The complaint alleges that PAWC has had to upgrade its water system in light of the need to make the drinking water safe from PFAS. It has reportedly incurred capital improvement costs, including for the placement of granular activated carbon filters to remove the contaminants.

PAWC brings product liability, tort, property, and state statutory causes of action. The plaintiff seeks reimbursement of its PFAS-related testing, injury assessment, and  infrastructural improvement costs. PAWC also asks the court to hold the defendants jointly and severally liable for removal and clean-up expenditures, to assess consequential and punitive damages, and to enjoin the defendants from perpetuating the nuisance they have allegedly created.

The plaintiff is represented by its own counsel, Frazer PLC, and Richardson, Patrick, Westbrook & Brickman, LLC.