City of E.C. Sues Chemical Makers Over Water Contamination
PFAS, the so-called ‘forever chemicals,’ were found in city’s water in 2021
The City of Eau Claire is suing the manufacturers of so-called “forever chemicals” which have been discovered in the city’s drinking water and led to the closure of nearly half the city’s wells.
The city first discovered PFAS (officially known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in its water supply in the summer of 2021. Since then, the city says, it “has taken proactive steps to test for and mitigate the effects of these chemicals so that our drinking water remains within Wisconsin’s safe drinking water standards.” Steps have included shutting down multiple wells, testing wells (both those in use and those not being used), creating temporary mitigation methods to lower PFAS levels, as well as forming plans to treat city water in the long term.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals used in a wide variety of common applications, from the linings of fast-food boxes and non-stick cookware to fire-fighting foams and other purposes.” A study released earlier this summer by the Geological Survey found that at least one kind of PFAS could be found in 45% of the nation’s drinking water samples.
“Costs for the City’s PFAS response are already over $1 million and expected to rise to over $20 million with the construction and long-term maintenance of new treatment facilities.”
CITY OF EAU CLAIRE
IN A MEDIA RELEASE ABOUT A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE MAKERS OF PFAS CHEMICALS
Peer-reviewed scientific studies have found that PFAS exposure may lead to a variety of health problems, including reproductive problems, developmental impacts and delays in children, an increased risk of some cancers, and more, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.
“Costs for the City’s PFAS response are already over $1 million and expected to rise to over $20 million with the construction and long-term maintenance of new treatment facilities,” the city said in an Aug. 21 media release. “The PFAS manufacturers, not the public, should be responsible for these costs. These companies knew long ago that PFAS chemicals were harmful yet failed to warn the public or remove the product from the market, all the while profiting greatly from its continued sale.”
The release continued by noting that proposed class action settlements with two major chemical makers – 3M and DuPont – could bring “significant funds” to the city if they are approved. “The lawsuit filed by the city is a further step to protect the city’s rights and ensure all those responsible for the PFAS contamination at the City Well Fields are held accountable for the clean-up and the damages they have caused,” the media release concluded.
The lawsuit was filed in Eau Claire County Circuit Court on Aug. 21 against 31 defendants – including 3M, DuPont, Johnson Controls, and Raytheon Technologies – as well as unnamed “John Doe” defendants.
Lane Berg, community services director for the City of Eau Claire, confirmed that seven of the city’s 16 wells remain closed because of PFAS contamination. The well shutdowns were voluntary: According to water tests results published by the city, the levels of various PFAS chemicals in city water have not exceeded 20 parts per trillion, the health advisory level recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.