Almost Half of U.S. Tap Water Tainted by Forever Chemicals

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They’re commonly called “forever chemicals”—a collection of 12,000 chemicals that resist degradation in the environment and build up in the body. But mounting research could support someday changing the term to “forever and ubiquitous chemicals.”

A new study released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have contaminated close to half of the country’s tap water.

“Millions of people have been drinking a toxic forever chemical linked to cancer all their lives and are only discovering it today,” Scott Farber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, told The Washington Post.

This would explain the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2015 findings that PFAS dwell in the blood of more than 95 percent of Americans—and they are far from friendly residents. Studies have found that high levels of PFAS link to multiple adverse health outcomes, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, low birth weights, and increased cholesterol levels, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

In March 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first national drinking water standard for PFAS: 4 ppt (parts per trillion). This is the equivalent of a single drop of water in five Olympic-sized Swimming pools.

Water providers are now suing chemical companies like 3M, DuPont, and Chemours, among others to cover the costs of remediation to make water safe for consumers.

On Tuesday, June 27, 2023, Levin Papantonio Rafferty (LPR) attorneys announced that talks with 3M, a defendant in the national litigation Aqueous Film-Forming Foams (AFFF) Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 2873, resulted in a $12.5 billion settlement agreement with the chemical manufacturer.

According to a press release issued by the law firm, 3M will pay a minimum of $10.5 billion and a maximum of $12.5 billion to settle lawsuits over the contamination of drinking water systems across the country with harmful per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Water providers will receive compensation to help fund water testing and infrastructure to immediately clean up drinking water supplies and fund ongoing maintenance to ensure drinking water safety. The settlement will be paid out over 13 years.

“This settlement provides the critical funding needed to protect Americans and remove these toxic substances from our nation’s drinking water,” said LPR Attorney Wes Bowden, who serves on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in the national AFFF litigation.

LPR Attorney Ned McWilliams, who is a member of the Science and Discovery Committees in the AFFF MDL, underscored the staggering costs associated with remediation of water supplies.

“Municipalities need to know they can still join this litigation to recover these costs, and time is of the essence for taking legal action,” McWilliams said.

Days prior to the national PFAS litigation’s first bellwether trial, (City of Stuart, Florida, vs 3M Co., et al), Dupont, Chemours, and Corteva, also Defendants in the national PFAS litigation, announced they agreed to pay $1.185 billion in the first major settlement in MDL 2873.