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Riverhead Town suing manufacturers that used toxic chemicals found in town wells

Riverhead Town on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against three companies that manufactured products with poly-fluoroalkyl substances, including perfluorooctanoic and perfluorooctane sulfonic acids,  contaminants which have been found in town wells.

The lawsuit — which seeks to recover the costs needed to protect the public and restore the damaged water supply well — names as defendants the 3M Company, Dupont and the Chemours company, and seeks punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, as well as compensatory damages.   

“PFAS are toxic, not easily biodegradable, persistent in the environment, and pose a significant risk to human health and safety,” the lawsuit says. “PFAS are associated with a variety of illnesses, including cancer, and considered particularly dangerous to pregnant women and young children.”

The lawsuit says the defendants “knew or should have known that PFAS are highly soluble in water; extremely mobile; persistent; very likely to contaminate surface and groundwater, including drinking supplies; and present significant risks to human health and welfare if released to the environment.”

The defendants continued to sell their products knowing it would be discharged into the land and water, according to the lawsuit, which states that two of the town’s 17 wells are contaminated with PFAS.

“[It’s] spreading through the aquifer system from which the town draws its drinking water supply, further threatening the town’s already-contaminated wells and the as-yet uncontaminated wells,” the lawsuit says.

The 3M Company manufactured the “Scotchgard brand of stain repellant,” food packaging, textile treatments, fluorosurfactants and additives, and other products” the lawsuit says, pointing out that 3M ceased PFOA production in 2002 under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Dupont began production for sale of PTFE, in or around 1951, under the trade name “Teflon,” the lawsuit says. The company has produced and produces numerous other PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS Products, the lawsuit claims. PTFE is a plastic containing fluorine and is used in products such as a coating for catheters and other medical equipment; an oxidizer in flares; in dental fillings, as a lubricant, and as sprayable coating that resists heat, water or oil, the lawsuit states.

In 2015, DuPont spun off its performance chemicals business, including its fluoroproduct divisions and business, to Chemours, which was incorporated as a subsidiary of DuPont until approximately April of 2015. 

In approximately July of 2015 Chemours began operating as an independent company, the lawsuit says. 

Sean Lynch, a spokesman for 3M, said in a statement: “3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend our record of environmental stewardship.”

Representatives of Chemours and Dupont could not immediately be reached for comment.