Vermont announced Thursday that it’s filed lawsuits against DuPont, 3M and other chemical companies for damages it says was caused to groundwater, drinking water and other natural resources by the contamination of a class of potentially toxic chemicals.
The two lawsuits over per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances contamination were filed Wednesday. The man-made chemical contamination was first discovered in drinking water wells around two former factories in the Bennington area in 2016. Since then, Vermont has found contamination in public water systems and private wells in Pownal, Clarendon, Shaftsbury, and at a school in Warren, officials said.
“These lawsuits allege that despite knowing for decades that these chemicals were dangerous and harmful, the companies never told us,” said Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan. “They knew that they were harmful to people, they knew that they were harmful to our environment and the defendant companies continued to manufacturer, market and sell these chemicals and related products.”
The health risks associated with these chemicals include altered growth, increased risks of certain cancers, lowered chance of pregnancy and increased cholesterol levels, Donovan said.
One lawsuit is against companies that produce the chemicals and the other targets companies that manufacture firefighting foam containing the chemicals. An email was left for DuPont, 3M and other companies.
An email seeking comment was sent to DuPont. A spokeswoman for 3M said the company “acted responsibility in connection with products containing (the chemicals).”
A spokesman for Tyco and Chemguard said the companies are aware of the complaint and “acted appropriately and responsibly at all times in producing our firefighting foams.”
The lawsuits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York have filed similar lawsuits. Last year, Minnesota reached an $850 million settlement with 3M to resolve a lawsuit in which the state alleged some of the company’s chemicals damaged natural resources and groundwater in the Twin Cities’ eastern metropolitan area.
“Vermont has a proud tradition of being a steward of our land, of our air, of our water. We believe that clean drinking water is a basic human right. And the fact that these companies knew that these chemicals were harmful and dangerous and never disclosed it, never told us, the state of Vermont takes that seriously,” Donovan said.
This spring, Vermont announced a settlement with a plastics company that would help hundreds of people in the Bennington area whose drinking water wells had been contaminated. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics agreed to extend municipal water lines to more homes.
The state will be testing about 700 public water systems over the next year, said Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore. The state is in the process of adopting surface water standards for the chemicals and plans to continue testing at sites where their use is known or suspected, such as industrial users and car washes, she said. It also plans to do further sampling at wastewater facilities and landfills as well as soil sampling where wastewater, sludge and bio-solids have been applied to the land, she said.
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