CAPITAL REGION — The state has filed a new lawsuit against industrial conglomerate 3M and other firefighting foam manufacturers, seeking compensation for contamination at more than a dozen sites, some of them in the Capital Region.
The lawsuit charges that companies made and distributed aqueous film-forming chemical foams despite being aware they contamined hazardous compounds, including PFOAs and PFOS.
The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Albany on Feb. 8, cites previously unpublicized PFOA/PFOS contamination at industrial, airport or firefighter training locations across upstate, including Momentive Performance Materials in Waterford, SI Group in Rotterdam Junction, AMRI Rensselaer and Empire Generating in Rensselaer, the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport in Warren County, and at the Hamilton County Fire Training Center in Lake Pleasant, in the Adirondacks.
The lawsuit targets the manufacturers; the companies where the foam was used are not parties to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount of damages, but seeks to compensate the state for investigation costs, future monitoring, and damage to the environment.
The new case follows up on a case brought by then-Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood last June, seeking nearly $39 million in compensation for costs the state has incurred for cleanup responses at four civilian or military airports, including Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, the former Plattsburgh Air Force base, and the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome.
The defendants are 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products, Chemguard Inc., Buckeye Fire Equipment Co., and National Foam. Each made foams that deprived fires of oxygen and were often used to fight fires that involved chemicals that weren’t effectively extinguished using water.
3M and others are expected to continue contesting the lawsuits. “3M will vigorously defend this lawsuit. 3M acted responsibly at all times and will defend its record of stewardship in connection with its manufacturing and sale of AFFF,” a 3M spokesman responded to the initial lawsuit.
Tyco and Chemguard meanwhile are seeking to have the New York lawsuits, along with dozens of others based on similar claims filed around the country, consolidated in front of a single judge in federal court.
The firefighting products contained perfluorooctanoic acid/perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), or chemical compounds that degrade into them, according to the lawsuit. The chemicals, which have been most publicly prominent in connection with drinking water contamination in Hoosick Falls, are associated with increased risk of kidney and testicular cancers, ulcerative colitis and other health conditions, and low birth weights, according to the lawsuit.
The chemical compounds were developed by 3M in the 1940s. The lawsuit charges that the manufacturers knew of the potential health impacts through research studies by the 1980s, but did not inform federal regulators until later. In 2006, 3M paid a $1.5 million penalty to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for not reporting its findings sooner.
The lawsuit spells out the levels of contamination found in the Capital Region.
At the Momentive Performance Materials site, where industrial silicone products are made, the contamination of believed to have come from the testing or activation of fire suppression systems. The lawsuit says soil contamination there is as high at 1.35 parts per million, and groundwater contamination as high as 59.5 parts per trillion.
The SI Group, which makes a variety of adhesives and other chemicals at its Rotterdam Junction plant, also used the foams in automated fire suppression systems. Groundwater contamination there was found as high as 20.1 parts per trillion, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says the defendants should be required to cover the state’s costs for investigating and in the future remediating PFOA/PFOS contamination at the identified sites and at others that may not yet be known, and should compensate the state for harm to wildlife and other impacts on nature.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.