Michigan attorney general files lawsuit against firms over PFAS contamination

Toxic PFAS foam, seen here, can be bright white and tends to pile up like shaving cream on a river or lakeshore. The substance is usually lightweight and can be sticky. (Photo credit: Michigan.gov)


By Scott Bolthouse | The Huron Hub
ScottBolthouse@HuronHub.com

Posted Jan. 15, 2020

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court against 17 defendants—including 3M and DuPont—for damages and injury to the State of Michigan caused by contamination from toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS.

The lawsuit, according to the attorney general’s office, is the first legal action taken by the state against PFAS manufacturers.

The state’s lawsuit alleges the 17 defendants deliberately concealed the dangers of PFAS and withheld scientific evidence, and intentionally, knowingly and recklessly sold, distributed, released, transported, supplied, arranged for disposal or treatment, and handled and used PFAS and PFAS-containing materials in Michigan in a way that they knew would contaminate natural resources and expose Michigan residents to harm.

The defendants are:

  • Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. – a/k/a 3M;
  • DuPont, including its historic corporate self/identity/entity, as well as its post-merger-and-spinoff self – DuPont de Nemours Inc., a/k/a “New DuPont”;
  • The Chemours Co., a spinoff of DuPont, and its subsidiary (The Chemours Co. FC LLX);
  • Corteva Inc., another DuPont spinoff which was part of Defendant Dow DuPont;
  • Dyneon LLC;
  • Archroma entities;
  • Arkema entities;
  • AGC Chemicals Americas Inc.;
  • Daikin Industries entities;
  • Solvay Specialty Polymers, USA LLC; and
  • Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc.

“We bring this action today on behalf of the people of Michigan,” said Nessel.  “It is our responsibility to protect our residents and our state’s natural resources and property by preventing and abating hazards to public health, safety, welfare and the environment – and by placing the responsibility for this massive undertaking with those responsible for creating the problem.”

The complaint alleges the defendants knew or should have known that:

  • PFAS persist in the environment and do not degrade;
  • PFAS would accumulate and build up in animals and humans exposed to PFAS;
  • PFAS are potential or confirmed carcinogens; and
  • continued manufacture and use of PFAS would inevitably result in continued and increased levels of PFAS getting into the environment and into people’s bodies.

The state also alleges the defendants knew PFAS are toxic and pose substantial health and environmental risks but hid this information from the state and its residents.

Specifically, the state says companies neglected to tell people what was in the products, suppressed the scientific evidence that the chemicals were hazardous, discharged the chemicals into the environment and distributed the chemicals all over the world, including into Michigan, knowing that PFAS would contaminate natural resources and threaten public health.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s.

In March 2019, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extended a warning first issued in August 2018 regarding unsafe PFAS levels in the Huron River.

Related: Michigan extends PFAS chemical warnings for Huron River

During that time, MDHHS said fish from the Huron River were not safe to eat due to high PFAS levels.

Officials at the time said touching the fish or water and swimming in the water bodies is not considered a health concern as PFAS do not move easily through the skin.

However, those on the Huron River were warned in September 2018 not to swallow foam that might be floating on the surface of the water.

Exposure to PFAS is correlated with several harmful and serious health effects including decreased fertility, pregnancy induced hypertension and/or preeclampsia, liver damage, thyroid disease, problems with cholesterol levels, immune system problems, and increased likelihood of cancer, especially kidney and testicular cancers.

“Without widespread action to investigate, remediate and restore the resources in Michigan impacted by PFAS contamination, the presence and migration of PFAS in our state’s natural resources and property will continue unchecked and indefinitely, threatening natural resources, property and our residents,” Nessel said.  “We are committed to ensuring that the companies responsible for unleashing PFAS on our state will stand up to their legal obligations and responsibilities.  Their reprehensible conduct demands Gov. Whitmer and I take every legal and regulatory action necessary to protect the people and natural resources of our state.”

A copy of the lawsuit is available here


 

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