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Michigan sues firefighting foam manufacturers over PFAS contaminants

By: - August 21, 2020 11:00 am

Susan J. Demas

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday filed two complaints against makers of PFAS-containing firefighting foam that her office says contaminated Michigan’s environment.

The two lawsuits, filed in state and federal courts, follow up on a similar lawsuit Nessel filed in January against 3M, DuPont and a number of other chemical manufacturers.

Nessel says toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, existed in commercial-grade aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, made and sold to customers in Michigan.

PFAS exposure has been linked to multiple severe health effects, including pregnancy and fertility issues, liver damage, thyroid disease, immune system problems and increased likelihood of cancers. 

The lawsuit at the state court level and the one at the federal court level assert that defendants “deliberately concealed the dangers of PFAS” and  intentionally, knowingly and recklessly sold, distributed, released, transported, supplied, arranged for disposal or treatment, and handled and used the AFFF in that it would contaminate Michigan’s ecosystem and affect its residents. 

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“As with the lawsuit already filed for PFAS contamination from non-AFFF sources, these lawsuits seek recovery of damages, remediation costs and other relief needed due to PFAS contamination from AFFF in the State of Michigan,” Nessel said in a news release. “Michigan taxpayers should not have to pay for this massive undertaking – those who profited from the manufacture and sale of these harmful chemicals should.” 

The extent of the damages and costs incurred by the AFFF in question is “yet to be determined,” according to the attorney general’s office. 

“The companies that made and sold AFFF knew about the risks to human health and the environment resulting from use of these foams, yet they continued to sell them without warning buyers of the danger,” said Liesl Clark, who directs the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). “In keeping with our legislative mandate that parties responsible for pollution should pay for clean-up, the State is seeking compensation from the companies who profited from the sale of AFFF that now contaminates Michigan’s environment.”   

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.