The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority has agreed to settle its water contamination claims against Daikin America for $5 million. The Authority filed a class-action federal lawsuit last year alleging that 3M, Daikin, and Dyneon had contributed to PFC contamination in the Tennessee River, thereby polluting the Authority’s drinking water supply and putting its thousands customers at risk for health problems. This partial settlement does not resolve the Authority’s claims against 3M or Dyneon, nor does it affect the claims of any individuals who allege that they have suffered personal injury as a result of PFC exposure. For its part, 3M has vowed to fight all allegations made in the Authority’s suit, and litigation against the remaining two Defendants will continue unabated.
The Water Authority plans to use the settlement to pay for the installation of a new granular activated carbon filtration system that will remove up to 99 percent of the PFC contaminants, and has issued a news release detailing how the funds will be spent. Approximately $3.9 million of the settlement will be directly applied to the installation of the new filter system, while another $450,000 has been earmarked for rebates to customers who paid higher bills over the summer when temporary measures were put in place to reduce PFC levels. The remainder of the settlement will be used to cover court costs and other associated fees. Fortunately for the Water Authority’s customers, this settlement should prevent the cost of the new filtration system from being passed down in the form of higher water bills.
PFC contamination has been a hot button topic since May 19, when the EPA issued a new drinking water health advisory for PFOS and PFOA (two types of PFCS), warning that the chemicals can cause health problems at much lower exposure levels than previously believed. Tests of eight water systems in Alabama, including the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority, revealed PFC levels in excess of the new health advisory. It was not until June 23 that Governor Robert Bentley announced that all Alabama water systems were testing within the new EPA threshold, though efforts to address PFC contamination are ongoing. If you need more information on this subject contact Rhon Jones, who heads up our firm’s Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com.