Local water utility files lawsuit over ‘forever chemicals’

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has filed a lawsuit against numerous companies, alleging they knowingly polluted the environment with “forever chemicals.”

WSSC said damages received would go toward the cost of updating water treatment methods.

In the lawsuit, filed in Maryland’s federal court, the utility names nearly 20 companies — including 3M, Dupont and Chemours — for their manufacturing of fire-suppression foams that contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS.

WSSC alleged that these companies knowingly concealed the chemicals’ toxicity from the public.

PFAS are also found in things, such as nonstick frying pans, stain repellent, carpet and furniture. They are associated with numerous health risks, according to the CDC, including increased cholesterol levels, liver damage and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.

According to WSSC, its lawsuit seeks financial damages for any past, present or future contaminations of its water supply and any changes to wastewater treatment methods.

“As an organization committed to public health and safety, we owe it to our 1.9 million customers to hold accountable those responsible for producing these pollutants,” said WSSC Water Commission Chair Regina Y. Speed-Bost in a news release. “We are proud of our impressive record of zero drinking water quality violations in our 105-year history and are committed to doing everything in our power to continue this exceptional level of excellence, which includes filing this lawsuit.”

According to the news release, the measured amount of PFAS in its drinking water supply is currently low — however, additional water treatment may be required to maintain safe levels, which the utility says it would use lawsuit damages to pay for.

WSSC joined numerous plaintiffs, including the state of Maryland and more than a dozen other states, that have sued companies over PFAS.

In June, 3M announced they would pay $10.3 billion to settle the lawsuits. Both D.C.’s and Maryland’s attorneys general urged a federal court in July to reject the proposed settlement.

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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