Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit Monday against more than two dozen chemical manufacturers, including 3M and DuPont de Nemours, claiming they knowingly produced, sold and distributed firefighting foam containing harmful per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The lawsuit alleges that the chemical manufacturers polluted the District’s waterways and natural resources, including the Potomac River and Tidal Basin, with aqueous firefighting foam products made with “forever chemicals,” according to the complaint.
The Potomac River is one of the District’s major waterways, which is used for recreation, protection and reproduction of fish, shellfish and wildlife. It is also the sole drinking water source for District residents as well as portions of Maryland and Virginia, according to the complaint.
Utility company DC Water had to test and treat the drinking water, which incurred costs paid largely by its users, the lawsuit stated. DC Water provides services to over 700,000 District residents and 21 million visitors yearly, as well as 1.6 million residents in Montgomery and Prince George counties in Maryland and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.
“DC Water is funded in substantial part through charges to its users,” according to court documents. “To the extent costs to provide DC Water’s services increase, these costs are proportionately passed along to its ratepayers, including the District itself and its residents.”
The lawsuit points to two locations that allegedly contaminated the District’s natural resources: the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and Naval Support Facility Anacostia. The District conducted water testing in the Potomac River near those locations, which have been used for firefighting, training and storing aqueous firefighting foam.
The District’s attorney general is seeking the companies pay of past and future costs to investigate, assess, monitor, remediate and restore contaminated water, locations, property and natural resources. The District also seeks litigation costs, attorney fees and punitive or exemplary damages.
Furthermore, the District is seeking damages for injury to its natural resources, including economic impact to the capital and its residents due to loss of ecological services.
Additionally, the lawsuit accused DuPont de Nemours (Old DuPont), Corteva, EIDP (New Dupont) and The Chemours Co., of shielding their assets to avoid liability by restructuring and spinning off their businesses. For these specific companies, the District seeks to void the break-off and spin-offs and transfer their assets to the District.
“Compounding their illegal conduct, these companies for decades misled the public about the health and safety threats they knew their products posed,” D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb said in a statement. “The District and its residents will be forced to deal with the adverse impacts of these ‘forever chemicals’ for years to come. Through this lawsuit, we will hold polluters accountable for the damage their conduct has caused and will continue to cause.”
This lawsuit comes after chemical manufacturers DuPont, Corteva and Chemours reached a $1.2 billion agreement last month to settle all PFAS-related drinking water claims against them. 3M also reached a $10.3 billion settlement in June to resolve some lawsuits over allegations that it contaminated public water supplies across the U.S. with PFAS.