Puerto Rico gov’t sues 20 companies for PFAS contamination
The government of Puerto Rico, on behalf of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, has filed a lawsuit against at least 20 companies for contamination of the island’s natural resources with toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which threaten the environment and people.
In the 88-page civil case filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, the government claims the defendants “designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and sold a wide range of products that contain PFAS, the use, disposal, and discharge of which in Puerto Rico released the contaminant into the environment through multiple ways, [polluting] natural resources and putting Puerto Ricans’ health at significant risk.”
The list of defendants includes 3M Co.; AGC Chemicals Americas Inc.; Amerex Corp.; Archroma U.S. Inc.; Arkema INC.; BASF Corp.; Buckeye Fire Equipment Co.; Carrier Fire & Security Americas Corp.; Carrier Global Corp.; Chemdesign Products Inc.; Chemguard Inc.; Clariant Corp.; Corteva Inc.; Dupont De Nemours, Inc.; Dynax Corp.; EIDP INC., F/K/A E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co.; Kidde Plc Inc.; National Foam Inc.; The Chemours Co.; Tyco Fire Products LP; and other unidentified entities.
Some of the defendants’ PFAS products included specialized firefighting foams used to extinguish or suppress flammable liquid fires; household and consumer products such as grease-, stain- and water-repellant cookware, carpeting, clothing and food packaging; and processing aids used to make further products. Defendants generated significant profits from selling these products, including under branded names such as Teflon and Scotchgard, according to the complaint.
In its complaint, the government claimed that while the defendants knew of the harmful effects of their products, they continued to release or sell them, without warning “plaintiff and the public of the dangers posed by their PFAS Products, and instead hid these dangers to protect their corporate image and limit their liability.”
PFAS are now commonly known as “forever chemicals, [because] they are persistent and will remain in the environment for hundreds or even thousands of years, leaving a toxic legacy for future generations of Puerto Ricans and others,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint responds in part to the release in March of proposed drinking water standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which limits the maximum acceptable contaminant levels in drinking water.
“As a result of these proposed regulations, Puerto Rico’s public water suppliers will be required to meet these stringent requirements by constructing and/or updating treatment systems and taking other action in the near future to protect the health of the people of Puerto Rico from this emerging threat,” the case states.
“The Commonwealth will be faced with the enormous challenge of investigating, monitoring, treating, remediating, removing, and disposing of these toxic chemicals from Puerto Rico’s waters and other natural resources and continuing to maintain and monitor into the future for an indeterminate amount of time,” the government further noted in its filing, in which it is represented by law firms in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas and San Juan.
The commonwealth is asking for a trial by jury. While it does not specify the amount of damages it is seeking, the government is seeking restitution for costs associated with investigating, cleaning up and removing contamination, as well as for restoring, treating and monitoring contamination at sites across the island where PFAS products were used and discharged.
Undisclosed damages are also sought to compensate the people of Puerto Rico for the lost use and value of natural resources, including ground water and drinking water supplies.