Last week saw new lawsuits and a settlement. The stock market shrugged.
The past week saw two new lawsuits naming manufacturers of “Forever Chemicals” (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS) from the State Attorney Generals’ offices of Pennsylvania and Washington, and a settlement in the South Carolina aqueous film-forming foam multi-district litigation (AFFF MDL), where the trial was due to start today. Stock prices in the companies affected rebounded sharply Friday June 2nd.
A settlement, and a punt
As reported in , Dupont and two related PFAS manufacturers settled Friday ahead of the South Carolina trial due to start today, while 3M has asked for a delay in the trial to give more time to reach a settlement.
According to law firm Napoli Shkolnik, the settlement with Dupont and related companies Chemours and Corteva is worth $1.185 billion, while Bloomberg mentioned $10 billion as a possible settlement figure for 3M.
While these figures sound impressive, for perspective the City of Vancouver, Washington, has been quoted $233 million for a treatment plant to remove PFAS from the city’s drinking water, or a fifth of the money in the first of these settlements alone.
In addition, as Business Wire points out:
The following systems are excluded from the settlement class: […] small systems that have not detected the presence of PFAS and are not currently required to monitor for it under federal or state requirements; […].
This means private wells and systems serving less than 15 connections are not covered. That’s at least thirteen percent of Americans, and in some states, like Washington, a higher percentage as detailed in a previous post:
Nevertheless, the National Rural Water Association has been aggressively promoting this lawsuit, which is still open for new registrations. While NRWA and Napoli Shkolnik are touting this settlement as a major victory for the plaintiffs, the stock market begged to differ, with Chemours (XNYS: CC) rising by 24% after the settlement was announced.
Fortunately, there are other lawsuits which may offer more hope for smaller systems and private wells in Washington and other states.
Two new lawsuits
On May 30th, Washington State Attorney general Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against twenty manufacturers of PFAS and of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). Ferguson, who is running for Washington State Governor, stated in a news release:
“These corporations knew for decades about the serious risks these forever chemicals pose to human health and our environment. Their corporate greed caused significant damage, and they need to be held accountable.”
Following the discovery of PFAS in drinking water around military facilities in 2016, Washington State set State Action Levels for PFAS and started a voluntary testing program for water systems serving fifteen or more connections, classified as Group A water systems.
Many new detections were found, in many cases near local fire stations, and the estimate cleanup costs continued to mount, and will increase further as more systems (gray on the map above) are tested, and as the EPA proposed lower limits for PFAS take effect. And for every detection in a Group A water system, there will be many more in private wells and Group B (under 15 connections) water systems.
It’s to be hoped that these state lawsuits bring more relief than the settlements announced so far.