Four New Jersey towns and an investor-owned water supplier are suing several manufacturers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as “forever chemicals.” They assert that the companies knew their products would cause water contamination, but sold them anyway.
The lawsuit demands that the manufacturers of these chemicals pay to clean them up.
The issue with PFAS
Companies have manufactured and used PFAS in the United States since the 1940s. However, concerns have arisen over the effect that accumulations of these chemicals, which do not break down in the human body or environment, may have on the environment and human health. Manufacturers no longer produce some PFAS in the U.S. due to phase-outs. A wide range of products contain PFAS and research indicates the chemicals may cause several health issues:
- Low infant birth weights
- immune system damage
People are most often exposed to these chemicals through contaminated water and soil, food packaging and food processing equipment.
Water contamination issues
New Jersey regulations require public water systems to maintain low levels of chemicals. Complying with these regulations costs utility companies about $10 million for filtration systems. Due to the state’s industrial history, New Jersey has some of the highest rates of PFA contamination in the country. Two-thirds of municipal water systems tested in 2009 and 2010 contained PFA contamination.
New Jersey towns and utility companies want the companies that produced those chemicals to pay to clean them up, instead of leaving towns to foot the bill for complying with new regulations.