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California agency sues 3M, others over groundwater contamination

2 minute read

The 3M Global Headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota, U.S. is photographed on March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

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  • Water district for largest U.S. county accuses PFAS manufacturers, sellers of polluting groundwater supplies
  • Plaintiff wants companies to cover cost of cleanup
  • District has authorized $34 million to remove PFAS from water

(Reuters) - California's largest groundwater agency has sued 3M Co, Corteva Inc, the Chemours Co and other manufacturers and sellers of industrial and consumer products over claims they contain a toxic chemical that polluted drinking water in Los Angeles.

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD), which oversees drinking water supplied to 43 cities in Los Angeles County, alleges in a complaint made public Tuesday that the companies knew products ranging from firefighting foam to textiles and non-stick cookware would pollute groundwater with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, but failed to warn against the risk.

The complaint, filed in Charleston, South Carolina federal court, seeks a ruling ordering the companies to pay for investigating and cleaning up wells that have been contaminated with the chemical compound. So far, WRD has approved $34 million in expenditures to construct water-treatment plants to remove PFAS, according to the complaint.

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The lawsuit is the latest to be filed in South Carolina multidistrict litigation involving PFAS-related claims.

Scientists have associated some PFAS, nicknamed "forever chemicals" because they don't break down easily, with illnesses such as kidney cancer.

Sean Lynch, a 3M spokesperson, said that the company "acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS."

A Corteva spokesperson said the company "does not make or sell any PFAS substances, including the fire-fighting foam described in this lawsuit."

Chemours did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ken Sansone, a lawyer representing WRD, said in a statement that the district "wants to ensure that it is the corporations whose products are responsible for contaminating its water that pay the substantial costs of cleaning it up."

WRD manages the drinking-water supply for four million residents in the United States' most populous county, the complaint says.

The case is Water Replenishment District of Southern California v. 3M Co, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, No. 2:21-cv-03669.

For Water Replenishment District of Southern California: Ken Sansone of SL Environmental Law Group; and Robert Bilott of Taft Stettinius and Hollister

Read more:

North Carolina sues 3M, others over firefighting foams

EPA proposes regulating 'forever chemicals' under hazardous waste law

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Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Sebastien Malo reports on environmental, climate and energy litigation. Reach him at sebastien.malo@thomsonreuters.com

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