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Chautauqua town files suit against firefighting foam companies

The town of Chautauqua has filed a lawsuit of its own to go after the firefighting foam companies that allegedly contaminated the water for village of Mayville residents.

In early June, a lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court in Chautauqua County by the village of Mayville against 23 companies that participated in the creation of the firefighting foam that was used by Chautauqua County in training exercises at the former Mayville High School, which is now owned by the town of Chautauqua.

On June 23, the town of Chautauqua filed its own lawsuit, similar to Mayville’s.

Companies named in the lawsuit include: 3M Company of Wilmington, Delaware; AGC Chemicals Americas Inc., of Wilmington; Amerex Corporation of Birmingham, Alabama; Archroma Management LLC of Switzerland; Arkema Inc. of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; Basf Corporation of Wilmington; Buckeye Fire Equipment Company of Pepper Pike, Ohio; Carrier Global Corporation of Wilmington; Chemdesign Products Inc of Wilmington; Chemguard Inc. of Wilmington; Chemicals, Inc. of Baytown, Texas; Clariant Corp. of Madison, Wisconsin; Corteva, Inc. of Wilmington; Deepwater Chemicals Inc. of Wilmington; DynA7 Corporation of Dover, Delaware; E. I. Dupont De Nemours and Company of Wilmington; Kidde-Fenwal, Inc. of Wilmington; Nation Ford Chemical Company of Fort Mill, South Carolina; National Foam, Inc. of Wilmington; The Chemours Company of Wilmington; and Tyco Fire Products LP of Wilmington.

The lawsuit alleges that there was foreseeable contamination of groundwater by the use of aqueous film forming foam that contained per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, including perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA).

PFOS and PFOA are fluorsurfactants that repel oil, grease and water and are also firefighting suppressant agents used in training and firefighting activities for fighting fires involving hydrocarbon fuels such as petroleum and other flammable liquids. From the 1960s through today, the defendants designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed and/or sold products containing PFOS and PFOA.

The suit alleges that the companies that manufacture the foam knew since the 1970s the chemicals would not break down and that the chemicals were discovered in the blood of employees.

The suit further alleges that by the end of the 1980s, research indicated that elevated incidence of certain cancers and other adverse health effects had been observed among workers exposed to PFOA but that research was not published as required by law.

In 2000, 3M began to phase out its production of products that contained PFOS and PFOA in response to pressure from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. However, the suit alleges the company failed to warn those using the product about the risk.

As a result of the fire training exercises conducted at the former football field of the Chautauqua Municipal Building, the groundwater in and around the town of Chautauqua has been contaminated by AFFF/Component Products containing PFAS. The foam would seep into the ground, and, through migration and runoff, leached into underground aquifers and surface water bodies used for drinking water.

Sean Lynch, 3M spokesman, released the following statement on the lawsuits: “3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS, including aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), and will vigorously defend our record of environmental stewardship.”

The lawsuit notes that the town of Chautauqua is now forced to incur significant costs for environmental testing, investigation and remediation of its property in order to mitigate the impacts of the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.

The town of Chautauqua will also incur additional costs associated with off-site impacts of the PFAS contaminated water migrating from the town’s municipal building, including sampling, remediation, operation and maintenance costs, and legal costs.

On Monday after the Chautauqua Town Board meeting, Supervisor Donald Emhardt noted that this is a class action lawsuit, designed to go after the manufacturers of the foam. He added that the board has not discussed suing Chautauqua County’s Emergency Services, which used the town’s property for the training, which used the firefighting foam.

Both the village of Mayville and the town of Chautauqua are being represented in the suit by Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC of New York City.

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