AG Healey Sues Manufacturers of Toxic ‘Forever’ Chemicals for Contaminating Massachusetts Drinking Water and Damaging Natural Resources

June 1, 2022

BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey today sued 13 manufacturers of poly- and perfluoroalkyl (PFAS) “forever” chemicals used in firefighting foam for causing millions of dollars in damages to communities across Massachusetts by knowingly contaminating drinking water sources, groundwater, and other natural resources with highly toxic PFAS chemicals that pose a serious threat to public health and the environment. The suit also names two companies that shielded assets that should be available to remedy the damages caused by PFAS contamination.

The AG’s complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, alleges the manufacturers repeatedly violated state and federal laws protecting drinking water and prohibiting consumer deception by marketing, manufacturing, and selling PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) to government entities, counties, municipalities, local fire departments, businesses and residents in Massachusetts while knowing of the serious dangers the chemicals posed.

“For decades, these manufacturers knew about the serious risks highly toxic PFAS chemicals pose to public health, the environment, and our drinking water—yet they did nothing about it,” AG Healey said. “As a result of this deception, our municipalities are spending millions of dollars to provide safe drinking water to their residents. I am suing today to hold these manufacturers accountable, require them to pay the growing costs these communities are shouldering, and repair our state’s precious natural resources that have been damaged by these illegal actions.”

“Since taking office, our Administration has provided over $110 million in funding to address PFAS contamination, including establishing strict standards for PFAS in drinking water and awarding funding to public water suppliers to help address PFAS contamination,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We appreciate Attorney General Healey for her partnership in this matter and appreciate everyone’s collective work to protect Massachusetts’ drinking water sources.”

“The Commonwealth continues to take a proactive approach in identifying sources of PFAS in order to protect drinking water supplies and our natural resources,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “The Baker-Polito Administration has worked directly with local communities to address the challenges associated with PFAS in our environment. The AG’s suit against these companies is another momentous step forward in safeguarding our drinking water sources and protecting public health.”

“PFAS contamination has affected a number of communities in Massachusetts, requiring costly immediate and long-term actions,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “With this legal action, the Commonwealth is taking an important step to help us and those communities that are currently bearing the burden of addressing this pollution.”

According to the AG’s lawsuit, the manufacturers’ illegal actions led to the contamination of countless water supplies in Massachusetts, including more than 126 public drinking water systems in 86 communities with serious levels of PFAS contamination such as in  Weymouth, Abington, Rockland, Cape Cod and Stow. The contamination has required massive efforts by these and other municipalities and the expenditure of millions of dollars to address the threat to the public health and the environment.

The 15 companies named in the lawsuit—part of multidistrict litigation that consists of hundreds of lawsuits brought by state attorneys general, municipalities, and private and public water districts—are 3M Company; AGC Chemical Americas, Inc; Archroma U.S. Inc.; Arkema, Inc.; Buckeye Fire Equipment; Chemguard Inc; Clarinet Corporation; Dynax Corporation; E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Kidde-Fenwal Inc.; National Foam Inc; The Chemours Company; Tyco Fire Products LP; Corteva Inc.; and DuPont de Nemours Inc.

According to the AG’s lawsuit, each of these manufacturers at varying times engaged in the design, manufacture, marketing, and/or selling of PFAS-containing AFFF used in Massachusetts. AFFF has been used in the U.S. since the 1960s by the military, airports, industrial facilities, and local fire departments to suppress flammable liquid fires, including aviation and jet fuel fires, and to help train firefighters and test firefighting equipment. AFFF products can cause hundreds, if not thousands, of gallons of foamy water laced with PFAS to enter the environment in a variety of ways including through soils, sediment, surface water, and groundwater.

The AG’s complaint alleges that the manufacturers sold and produced PFAS-products and deceptively advertised them as safe without human health or environmental risk, when in fact they knew the chemicals were highly toxic and dangerous for the environment. The AG further alleges that the manufacturers also never warned the state or other buyers about the dangers of the PFAS-containing AFFF, even as they belatedly transitioned to other formulas or phased out production.

As alleged in the complaint, to hide negative information about the toxicity of these products, manufacturers submitted false information to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and tried to prevent workers from discussing the risks associated with the chemicals.  The complaint further alleges that some defendants then unlawfully engaged in corporate transactions in order to avoid their liability for their products. Today’s lawsuit asserts claims under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, and the Massachusetts Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, among others.

Exposure to various PFAS, including through contaminated water supplies, can lead to serious health issues, including decreased antibody responses to vaccines, increased risk of childhood infections, developmental issues for children, decreased birthweight, testicular and kidney cancers, ulcerative colitis, liver damage, and thyroid disease.

The AG’s complaint also alleges that the manufacturers’ PFAS-containing AFFF products have and continue to cause serious contamination to the state’s natural resources, including the state’s lakes, streams, and rivers like the Shawsheen River, a tributary of the Merrimack River; coastal zones, including Cape Cod, Cape Ann, Martha’s Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands and their estuaries which provide critical habitat for marine life; sediments, soils and submerged lands that are critical resources for a healthy ecosystem; and thousands of plant species and diverse wildlife.

Today’s lawsuit is seeking costs to clean up and remove, restore, treat, and monitor PFAS contamination and an order requiring the manufacturers to reimburse the state for the damages its products caused. The complaint also demands that the manufacturers remediate and restore the state’s natural resources and pay investigation fees and costs.

AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division has prioritized combatting the growing public health risks associated with PFAS. Since 2019, AG Healey has repeatedly urged Congress and EPA to enact strong regulatory, reporting and monitoring standards for PFAS and to assist states and communities with the costs of drinking water treatment and other clean-up measures. AG Healey’s Office was a member of the Legislature’s PFAS Interagency Task Force that focused on addressing the state’s multifaceted ongoing PFAS-related challenges.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Andrew Goldberg, Lou Dundin, and Jillian Riley, as well as Division Chief Betsy Harper, all of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division and Special Assistant Attorneys General John D.S. Gilmour and William Jackson with assistance from MassDEP Deputy Commissioners Gary Moran and Paul Locke, General Counsel Benjamin Ericson, Jeffrey Mickelson, Lucas Rogers and Karen Crocker of the Office of General Counsel, Senior Officials Kathy Baskin, Elizabeth Callahan, Ann Lowery and Mark Smith, and Regional Office Directors Mike Gorski, MaryJude Pigsley, Eric Worrall and Millie Garcia Serrano.