Briefs

NM joins cascade of states suing PFAS manufacturers

By: - June 2, 2023 2:13 pm

DuPont corporate headquarters is seen on December 11, 2015 in Wilmington, Delaware. DuPont is amoung the 21 companies sued Thursday, June 1, 2023, by the state of New Mexico for charges including unfair and deceptive business practices. (Photo by Mark Makela / Getty Images)

The state of New Mexico is suing 21 manufacturers of ‘forever chemicals,’ also known as PFAS, for deceptive trade practices.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in district court in Santa Fe, a site that has PFAS contamination at the City of Santa Fe Fire Department. The court filing also named Lea County Airport in Hobbs, the Carlsbad Fire Department and Holloman and Cannon Air Force Bases as contaminated sites.

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez sued on behalf of the state and the NM Environment Department alleging the companies knew the risks that PFAS posed to health and the environment, but still sold aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) used around the state.

The lawsuit is seeking damages from the companies to hold them liable for the cost of clean up at known sites across the state where the chemicals contaminated, as well as money to cover costs to treat groundwater.

Major manufacturers, such as 3M and DuPont De Nemours are among the plaintiffs New Mexico is suing.

What are PFAS?

This class of per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals – called PFAS – include more than 12,000 compounds identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

They’re toxic, but also in manufacturing, clothing, furniture, food containers, firefighting foam and thousands of other everyday products.

The EPA warns that exposure can have significant and wide-ranging health impacts. These can include kidney and liver diseases, hormonal and immune system disruption, birth defects, among other threats.

The lawsuit said chemical foam was used for firefighting training and emergency response at fire departments, military sites, industrial facilities, airports and other sites in New Mexico.

This lawsuit is unrelated to a federal district lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force.

The New Mexico  lawsuit is seeking damages for past and future treatment from all PFAS contamination around the state, including loss of tax revenue from natural resources.

“Now that [New Mexico] and the larger public are becoming aware of just some of the massive problems Defendants have created while enriching themselves, Defendants seek to foist the equally enormous costs to address them back on the victims of their concealment,” the lawsuit said.

In recent days, attorneys general from states such as Maryland, Illinois, and Washington have filed similar lawsuits against manufacturers for both firefighting foam, and sometimes separate lawsuits for PFAS contamination from other products. A Bloomberg Law analysis estimated that these companies are facing billions of dollars in damages from more than 6,400 lawsuits filed since 2005.

On Friday, DuPont and two other companies announced they would pay $1.2 billion to settle PFAS-related contamination claims for public drinking water systems. The deal is subject to a judge’s approval, but might upend a trial set to start in South Carolina over PFAS.

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Danielle Prokop
Danielle Prokop

Danielle Prokop covers the environment and local government in Southern New Mexico for Source NM. Her coverage has delved into climate crisis on the Rio Grande, water litigation and health impacts from pollution. She is based in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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