A number of class actions in recent years have address the poisoning of water sources by PFOA and PFOS chemicals used in firefighting foam at military bases. This case is similar, except that the chemicals come from manufacturing sources. The town is Blades, Delaware, and the companies named as defendants are E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company, the Chemours Company, the 3M Company, Procino Plating, Inc., and Blades Development, LLC.
The class for this action includes the 1,300 residents of the town of Blades whose drinking water, from private and municipal wells. was contaminated with PFOA and PFOS.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and PFOS belong to a group of fluorine-containing chemicals called perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). They are man-made and do not break down in the environment. They can escape from facilities during their use, storage, or disposal, and they can also be carried through the air or move through soil into groundwater.
When they enter the human body, they are persistent and tend to accumulate. They have been associated with effects on the liver, the immune system, high cholesterol levels, increased risk of high blood pressure, changes in the thyroid hormone, ulcerative colitis, preeclampsia, and kidney and testicular cancer.
The complaint says that DuPont, Chemours (a spin-off of DuPont), and 3M made PFOA and sold it to Procino and Peninsula Plating to use in making nonstick cookware and in hard chrome plating processes.
However, according to the complaint, both 3M and DuPont knew that PFOA was toxic in the early 1960s and found evidence of effects in employees by the late 1970s. Both companies found elevated levels in the blood of workers and performed toxicology studies that showed adverse effects on animals. By the later 1980s and 1990s, both companies were seeing elevated incidence of cancer and other health problems in workers exposed to the chemical and evidence of contamination in the environment.
In 2000, 3M stopped making PFOA, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced tighter regulation of PFCs. Under the EPA’s Stewardship Program, DuPont and other companies voluntarily committed to reduce the content and emissions of PFOA and certain other chemicals. Studies continued.
The town of Blades gets its drinking water from three public wells and numerous private wells. In 2012, the EPA required public water systems to monitor for thirty contaminants. In 2018, residents of Blades were told not to drink the water from the public wells.
The complaint says, “As a result of years of consuming contaminated water, [residents of Blades] have been unknowingly exposed for many years to PFCs at concentrations hazardous to their health through the ingestion and dermal absorption of PFOA and PFOS.”