ME Files Lawsuits Against PFAS Manufacturers
Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey announced earlier this week that two lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers DuPont and 3M, alleging that they have promoted per- and polyfluoroakyl substances and PFAS-containing products for widespread use in the state.
Additionally, the suits allege that the manufacturers knew of PFAS toxicity decades ago but concealed that information from the public and continued to manufacture, sell and profit from their products containing these chemicals.
“The defendant manufacturers have willfully introduced toxic chemicals into Maine’s environment in pursuit of profit for shareholders,” said Attorney General Frey in a statement.
“Maine citizens and the State are left to manage the harm these chemicals cause in our natural resources, our animals, our food, and our bodies, and the State is working overtime to manage the fallout. PFAS manufacturers must account for the environmental, health and economic damage caused by their actions.”
About the Lawsuits
The two actions were reportedly filed in the Superior Court in Cumberland County on March 29, seeking to recover all costs to investigate, clean up, restore, treat, monitor and otherwise respond to the contamination of Maine’s natural resources.
Additionally, Maine has asked the court to void certain corporate transactions between DuPont and its affiliates designed to insulate DuPont from PFAS-related liabilities.
Maine attorney general sues companies for promoting PFAS products https://t.co/sr3QIuXjys— CentralMaine.com (@centralmenews) March 29, 2023
“PFAS contamination threatens the health of our people, our wildlife, our environment, and our future. My Administration, working closely with the Legislature, has spearheaded one of the strongest efforts in the nation to address PFAS, but more work remains—particularly holding accountable the large manufacturers responsible for this serious problem,” said Governor Janet Mills.
“Evidence indicates that, for many years, DuPont, 3M and the other defendant manufacturers knew that PFAS posed serious risks to human health and the environment but hid that knowledge from the public while they lined their pockets at our expense.”
According to reports, there are also at least two class-action lawsuits filed against PFAS manufacturers by homeowners and other plaintiffs in Maine.
Currently, Maine is in the middle of a multi-year investigation of PFAS contamination tied to sludge or industrial byproducts that were spread on farmers' fields as fertilizer. More than 50 contaminated farms have reportedly been identified so far, along with hundreds of private residential wells often located near fields where contaminated sludge was spread.
“3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS—including AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam)—and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship,” 3M’s corporate communications office, based in Minnesota, said in a statement.
“AFFF was a critical tool developed to serve an important need for military service members and other responders facing potentially high hazard, life-threatening challenges. 3M will continue to remediate PFAS and address litigation by defending ourselves in court or through negotiated resolutions, all as appropriate.”
The Maine lawsuits are the latest in a slew of filings against DuPont and 3M regarding PFAS, the latest coming from California in November last year.
DuPont PFAS Test Order
Last year, in June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its first Toxic Substances Control Act test order under the National Testing Strategy for PFAS found in commercial fire fighting foam and other uses.
The PFAS testing strategy was recently released to help identify PFAS data needs and requires testing to fill those gaps. The initiative is part of the EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap, which sets timelines from 2021 to 2024 to take specific actions and commit to bolder new policies to safeguard public health, protect the environment and hold polluters accountable.
For the first order issued in relation to the National PFAS Testing Strategy, the EPA selected 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonamide betaine (CASRN 34455-29-3), a chemical substance surfactant used to make commercial fire-fighting foams and can also be found in certain floor finishes.
According to TSCA Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule reports, 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonamide betaine has been manufactured (defined to include importing) in significant quantities (more than 25,000 pounds in a given year) and could be exposed to at least 500 workers in a given year.
Although there is some hazard and exposure information about this PFAS, the EPA found there is insufficient data to determine the effects on human health associated with the inhalation route of exposure. This test order will address this data need.
The Chemours Company, DuPont De Nemours Inc., National Foam Inc. and Johnson Controls Inc. are the recipients of this first test order. The TSCA requires a tiered testing process that covers the testing of physical-chemical properties and health effects following inhalation. Companies also have the option of providing the EPA with existing information that they believe EPA did not identify in its search for existing information.
The results of all the first-tier testing are required to be submitted to the EPA within 400 days of the effective date of the order and will inform the decision as to whether additional tests are necessary.
The orders and any data submitted in response to these orders that are not subject to a valid confidentiality claim will be made publicly available on the EPA’s website and in applicable dockets on www.regulations.gov.
3M PFAS Manufacturing Exit
At the end of last year, 3M announced its plans to exit PFAS manufacturing. According to the company’s late-December press release, not only is the company planning to stop the use of PFAS in its manufacturing, but it is also aiming to discontinue the use of PFAS across its product portfolio.
After careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of the evolving external landscape, the company shares that it is aiming to achieve the entire exit plan by the end of 2025.
Specifically, 3M shares that it will:
Through these actions, the company says it is committed to moving toward a world less dependent upon PFAS. In making this announcement, 3M also shared that it was planning to continue remediating PFAS and addressing litigation by defending itself in court or through negotiated resolution, all as appropriate.