Lax regulation until recently
The action is the latest attempt to curb PFAS in New Jersey, which has some the nation’s highest concentrations of the chemicals because of its long industrial heritage, and until recently, lax regulation. In the last five years, the state has set some of the nation’s strictest health standards for PFOS, PFOA and a related chemical, PFNA (perfluornonanoic acid).
In November last year, the state sued Solvay Specialty Polymers, a Gloucester County chemical company, for allegedly polluting local groundwater with PFNA. In 2019, it issued a directive to that company and four others that it said had contaminated water supplies for years and done little to clean them up.
The latest suit was filed in federal court in South Carolina, where related actions are being consolidated. It says the federal government has violated federal and state laws on safe drinking water, and asks the court to order the government to investigate and pay for the cleanup of the PFAS contamination in and around its New Jersey facilities. It also asks the court to order the federal government to pay for the medical monitoring of people in affected areas.
PFAS chemicals are linked to serious medical conditions including some cancers, immune-system impairments, ulcerative colitis, and elevated cholesterol.
PFAS, originally used in heat-resistant consumer products such as Teflon and Scotchgard, have been dubbed forever chemicals because they don’t break down in the environment and accumulate in the body. Scientists say the chemicals can be found in the body of virtually every American.
Protecting health of ‘military and civilian families’
“With today’s lawsuit, we are inviting the federal government to finally take the risks posed by PFAS chemicals as seriously as New Jersey does, and to take appropriate steps to protect the health of military and civilian families who live near our military bases,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, in a statement Thursday.
The action was taken jointly with the Department of Environmental Protection, whose soon-to-retire commissioner, Catherine McCabe, said the federal government must “do the right thing” by investigating and remediating the chemicals on military bases.
Neither the Department of Defense nor officials representing New Jersey’s joint base immediately responded to a request for comment on the suit. In 2016, the DOD issued a directive to stop using the foam for training, testing and maintenance, and said that if it needed to use the foam for saving lives, the affected soil would be treated and removed.
The suit was welcomed by the Environmental Working Group, a national advocate that has pressed the federal government to set strict standards for the chemicals in drinking water.
Military ‘understood the risks’
“For decades, the military understood the risks from PFAS in firefighting foam but failed to warn service members or take action to…