The toxic, hazardous effects of fire foam are still plaguing residents, workers, and firefighters who were exposed to these dangerous chemicals. As a result, a growing number of lawsuits are being filed. Civilian fire departments in certain parts of the United States, as well as airports and military bases, have been using aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) for years. These foams contain toxic and carcinogenic perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The cases name numerous chemical manufacturing companies as defendants, including United Technologies Corporation, Tyco Fire Products, National Foam, Inc., Kidde, Kidde-Fenwal, Inc., Dynax Corporation, Du Pont De Nemours Inc., Corteva, Inc., Chubb Fire, Ltd., Chemours Company, Chemguard Inc., Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, and 3M Company. Despite years of environmental damage and water contamination, as well as years of scientific research, all of these manufacturers continue to deny that their fire foam products are hazardous.
Lawsuits were recently filed in New York and West Virginia regarding fire foam contamination, caused by negligent use of the chemicals at airports and military bases in the two states.
fire foam Lawsuit in West Virginia
Seven companies in the state of West Virginia were named in a lawsuit related to the contamination of the city’s water supply due to fire foam. The lawsuit is seeking damages for exposing the residents of Martinsburg to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs). The lawsuit, which was filed last month in a federal court, includes Chemours, DuPont, and 3M as defendants.
The Air Force agreed to reimburse Martinsburg, West Virginia, residents $4.9 million dollars for the cleanup of harmful chemicals from the city’s water supply. In a statement from Shelley Moore Capito, a U.S. Senator from West Virginia, the contamination source was fire foam that was being used to put out oil-based fires at the Air National Guard in the Eastern Regional Airport.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as medical monitoring. Design defects, failure to warn, and negligence were all suspected to be at play. It is also believed that the companies knew how dangerous these chemicals were and could have prevented the contamination.
According to studies, the chemical manufacturers have known for years that PFA chemicals can accumulate in the human body and don’t break down and that exposure to these chemicals ultimately leads to illness.
The lawsuit will eventually be moved to a federal court in South Carolina, where other similar cases were sent.
fire foam Lawsuit in New York
East Hampton, New York, recently sued East Hampton Village, along with its liability insurance company, over perfluorinated chemicals being used and stored at East Hampton Airport in Wainscott, NY. The chemicals contaminated the town’s supply of drinking water and caused 47 out of the over 570 acres of airport space to be included in the Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites or Superfund sites by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The fire department in East Hampton was using the foam for training exercises at their training facility and at the airport. The foam was also used to fight airport fires from 2007 to 2017 between 1 and 10 times. In 2018, a “site characterization report” of East Hampton Airport was released by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The findings showed that groundwater had been impacted as a direct result of the historic storage and use of fire foam at the site.
The fire foam is stored in 55-gallon drums at the fire department’s substation. According to the complaint, there was no secondary containment system in place, meaning that if any AFFF had leaked from the drums or there had been a crack in the drums, the neighboring soil would have been impacted immediately by the chemicals in the foam. Also, according to the complaint, the fire department was washing their equipment and trucks in a separate location from where the foam was being used, which released residue into the ground.
The town is seeking damages to recover past, as well as future, costs related to the remediating issues that were caused by PFOS/PFOA contamination at the airport’s Superfund site, in addition to extending water mains and connecting them to affected residents in Wainscott.
Dangers Associated with PFAS
Evidence has shown that continuous exposure to PFAS poses a significant health risk to humans. There are a variety of adverse health effects, including developmental damage to breastfed babies and damage to fetuses, liver damage, thyroid problems, immune system disorders, and cancer (testicular and kidney).
The chemicals contained in PFAS do not dissipate, degrade, or break down environmentally. Because they are used extensively, they can be found globally in dust, air, bodies of water, and in the soil. These toxic chemicals are making it into drinking water supplies from runoff water. PFAS can also be found in the food chain as well as individual organisms, which means they will most likely be found in people’s blood.
From Airports to Groundwater: The fire foam Contamination Battle
The PFAS found in fire foam has been able to travel anywhere and cause permanent harm to humans and the environment. The dangerous chemical can seep into the soil and into groundwater, resulting in the contamination of public drinking water. AFFF can be released into the environment in a variety of different ways. Airports intentionally use the foam during emergency responses, testing and operational requirements, and training exercises. Sometimes, AFFF can be accidentally released in storage or while being transferred or delivered.
For years, it was believed that hazards to the environment and to humans were either overlooked or unknown, possibly deliberately. There weren’t many guidelines in place regarding the management or handling of AFFF, or of the eventual contamination of wastewater after the substance was used. AFFF wastewater was frequently allowed to run into the soil and discharge in the same way surface runoff water normally would.
Storage tanks and storage drums containing AFFF have, at times, been known to leak, and PFAS was released to the subsurface when that happened. The contamination gradually moves down into the soil and migrates into the groundwater. The contaminated groundwater eventually reaches rivers, streams, and creeks in addition to peoples’ water wells. These hazardous chemicals are then ingested by wildlife and humans.
Broughton Partners Can Help You Find AFFF Plaintiffs
We work closely with your law firm to provide you with fire foam claimants who need legal representation. You can receive fully vetted and pre-qualified claimants who are eligible to file a fire foam lawsuit.
Bringing in new clients while also working with your current ones can be a challenging task. Let Broughton Partners do the heavy lifting by connecting you with the claimants you need so you can focus on the growth of your law firm.
Call Broughton Partners today at (855) 463-1735, or contact us online for your free consultation.
- Associated Press. “West Virginia Suit Filed Over Exposure To fire foam”, ABC News, https://www.wvpublic.org/post/west-virginia-suit-filed-over-exposure-firefighting-foam#strhttps://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/05/07/business/ap-us-chemical-contamination-lawsuit-1st-ld-writethru.html. Accessed May 16, 2020.
- Vera Chinese. “East Hampton Town sues over contamination linked to fire foam”, Newsday, https://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/lawsuit-firefighting-foam-airport-fire-department-contamination-1.44017948. Accessed May 16, 2020.