The city of Philadelphia sued several chemical companies on Friday for allegedly contaminating city property and resources, including drinking water supplies, by so-called forever chemicals that remain in the body for many years and have been found to be harmful to human health.
The 55-page lawsuit, filed in the Court of Common Pleas, alleges that the defendants, including 3M Company, EI DuPont De Nemours and Company, and The Chemours Company, knew or should have known about the dangers of chemicals, known as PFASand then hid those dangers.
The companies “caused citywide pollution that has harmed, and continues to harm, public health, natural resources, property, and the economic well-being of the city and its citizens,” the complaint alleges.
PFAS is short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are used in nonstick pans, water-repellent sportswear, stain-resistant carpet, cosmetics, and many other products.
PFAS have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s, and the toxic industrial compounds are associated with serious health conditions, such as cancer and reduced birth weight. PFAS are also linked to high cholesterol, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia.
“You can’t get dirty and expect others to clean it up,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “The defendants in this case knew their products were dangerous, but selfishly brought them to market for profit anyway. This lawsuit will make them pay the costs the City will now have to incur to treat and dispose of PFAS to proactively protect Philadelphians and the environment.”
While the chemicals have been found in the city’s drinking water, Philadelphia Water Commissioner Randy E. Hayman said the water has tested below new proposed state limits for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most commonly studied types of PFAS.
Last year, Delaware County sued chemical companies for their alleged involvement in the PFAS contamination of local firefighting facilities. In 2020, New Jersey authorities sued a chemical company for alleged PFAS contamination of toxic compounds once produced at a plant in Gloucester County.
the The investigator has previously reported about how chemicals contaminated a drinking water source for residents of Bucks and Montgomery counties who lived near the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and the Naval Air Station in Willow Grove. The chemicals seeped into the groundwater and from the foundations of the firefighting foam.
Philadelphia lawsuit targets US Environmental Protection Agency in June of this year updating its advisory levels for types of PFAS due to new research indicating the chemicals are more dangerous than previously known.
As a result, the complaint says, “the city has become aware of levels of PFAS in drinking water supplies throughout the city that could affect public health. PFAS are also present in surface water, groundwater, air, and sediment throughout the city.”
The complaint adds: “The City has identified multiple contaminated sites and numerous locations where PFAS are known or suspected to have been released into the environment. Based on current information, PFAS contamination has occurred throughout the city.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Philadelphia International Airport and Northeast Philadelphia Airport are contaminated by PFAS used in firefighting.
The city says the new understanding of how widespread the contamination is will result in higher costs for cleanup and other responses.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as other forms of relief.