Since water is essential to life, it should come as no surprise that ensuring safe drinking water is a priority for our Toxic Torts Section. Our firm holds a $700 million verdict for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination, the largest private environmental settlement in U.S. history.
PFC Contamination in Water Systems
In addition, Beasley Allen is currently working with cities, towns, municipalities and water boards in Alabama that have been affected by perfluorinated compounds (PFC) contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new lifetime health exposure guidelines in May 2016 for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooactanoic acid (PFOA) in the water supply. After the EPA issued the new exposure limits, an advisory warning was provided to eight water systems in Alabama and more than 50 nationwide.
The EPA advisory focused on PFOA and PFOS, man-made chemical compounds that are used in the manufacture of non-stick, stain-resistant and water-proofing coatings on fabric, cookware, firefighting foam and a variety of other consumer products.
Exposure to the chemicals over time, even in trace amounts, could promote serious health problems, the EPA warns. These may include developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes). The EPA suggests that sensitive populations such as pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and formula-fed infants served by the identified water system consider using alternate sources of drinking water.
However, water systems nationwide have been affected and identified by the EPA advisory as exceeding exposure limits. For example, Beasley Allen has worked with several other firms on a class action lawsuit against Dupont arising from contaminated water supplies near Dupont’s Chambers Works facility in Deepwater, New Jersey. The class action suit alleges that certain chemicals known as PFCs (perfluorocarbons) were discharged from this Dupont facility and have contaminated the water supply in several cities and townships in Salem County, New Jersey. Our suit seeks clean drinking water for the communities neighboring the Dupont facility and compensation for lost property values resulting from to the contamination.
Our firm also pursues cases involving leaking underground storage tanks. Thousands of storage tanks containing gasoline, oil and other potentially toxic substances are buried near gas stations throughout the Southeast. Over time, these underground storage tanks can erode and develop leaks. When these containers leak, petroleum contaminants can move through the soil and pollute groundwater supplies with toxins including MTBE, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. Some of these substances are classified as “known human carcinogens” (know cancer-causing agents) by state and federal regulatory agencies. In addition, prolonged exposure to these chemicals has been linked to central nervous system damage, respiratory illnesses, kidney disease, liver dysfunction and blood disorders.