California Water Utilities Sue Chemical Companies Over PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water

Does California drinking water contain PFAs?

Lawsuit Claims Negligence Led to PFAS Contamination

California water utilities are taking legal action against private companies they allege are responsible for contaminating the state's drinking water with toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS.

The companies facing the allegations of negligence and creating a nuisance with the contamination include vehicle parts manufacturer Dynax America Corp. and chemicals manufacturer Arkema Inc.

The new lawsuit over per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS and forever chemicals) is one of the first filed since the Biden administration introduced new regulations that set strict limits for the chemicals in drinking water, Reuters reports.

New EPA rules could shape case

This lawsuit comes on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent implementation of stricter regulations for PFAS in drinking water. These new standards aim to protect millions of Americans from potential health risks associated with these chemicals.

Specifically, the new rule will affect up to 10 percent of the 66,000 public drinking water systems in the country, and it is predicted to reduce the exposure of 100 million people to the group of 15,000 PFAS. According to the agency, it will prevent tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. As part of the new standards, the federal agency offered states $1 billion for public water system testing.

What are PFAS and why are they a concern?

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a large group of man-made chemicals used in numerous consumer products. They're known as "forever chemicals" because they don't easily break down in the environment or the human body. Studies have linked exposure to PFAS to various health problems, including certain cancers, hormone disruption, and developmental issues.

How did PFAS get into California's water supply?

The lawsuit alleges that negligence on the part of chemical companies allowed PFAS to contaminate California's water systems. These contaminants can enter waterways through various means, including spills from industrial sites, fire training activities, and wastewater treatment plants.

A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey shows nearly half of all tap water in the U.S. contains the forever chemicals, and at least one of the synthetic chemicals exceeded the legal limits in 45 percent of the samples. The study found people in urban areas are at higher risk of exposure to PFAS in drinking water than those in more rural settings.

How can you stay informed and protected?

California residents concerned about PFAS in their drinking water can contact their local water utility for information on testing and mitigation efforts. Additionally, the EPA offers resources for identifying certified laboratories to test your water for PFAS. Home water treatment systems can also be an option for further protection.

California follows national trend of PFAs litigation

This California lawsuit mirrors similar suits brought by water utilities across the U.S., some of which have yielded multi-billion dollar settlements.

According to Reuters, the California case will likely be consolidated with hundreds of similar lawsuits already underway in a federal court located in South Carolina. This centralized litigation system has facilitated major settlements exceeding $11 billion. These settlements involve water systems and chemical giants like 3M, DuPont de Nemours Inc.,Chemours, Corteva, and Johnson Controls subsidiary Tyco Fire Products.

The plaintiffs are represented by Kenneth Sansone of SL Environmental Law Group and Daniel Robinson of Robinson Calcagnie.

The California PFAS drinking water lawsuit is Orange County Water District et al. v. AGC Chemicals Americas Inc. et al, Case No. 8:24-cv-00820 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.



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