Hundreds file personal injury claims against makers of firefighting foams

Hundreds of current and former Pennsylvania residents have filed a mass tort lawsuit because of injuries they say they have suffered because of contaminants in drinking water. This report in The Intelligencer in Doylestown, Pa., caught our attention as we continue to monitor Colorado residents’ concerns about contaminated drinking water in rural El Paso County.

The contaminants affecting Pennsylvania water sources and wells — identified as the unregulated chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — were ingredients in firefighting foams used for decades on military bases. The Pennsylvania case focuses on military use of the foams in that state’s Bucks and Montgomery counties. Similarly, the contamination found in the Colorado Springs area came from firefighting foams used during training at Peterson Air Force Base.

As ABC 13 in Colorado Springs reports: “Last year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency toughened health advisory levels for the chemicals, technically known as perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, decreasing safe exposure from 400 parts per trillion to 70 parts per trillion.”

The Intelligencer reports that “since 2014, 22 public drinking water wells and more than 200 private wells … have been shut down … affecting the drinking water of more than 100,000 people.”

In Colorado, the U.S. Air Force has agreed to spend $4.3 million on a five-year clean-up plan that includes supplying bottled water to affected residents and placing filters in contaminated wells. Filters are expected to be installed for about 30 homes, several churches and businesses and three water districts. While El Paso County commissioners say they’re generally pleased with Peterson’s AFB’s response, they’re also fearful that the contamination could wind up costing the county money eventually. Several county residents also remain skeptical about their local water supply and consume only water they buy bottled or secure from nearby friends and family served by other utilities.

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