The Charleston County Aviation Authority, the group that operates Charleston International Airport, is suing a number of corporate defendants over fire-fighting foam that was standard at airports for years – and increasingly research shows. more than it is dangerous for man.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Charleston on Jan. 6, will join 2,000 other civil lawsuits from across the country that have been consolidated in the holy city under the leadership of US District Judge Richard Gergel. All of them focus on PFAS, the class of chemicals used in these flame retardant foams. This is the first case with a South Carolina plaintiff.
The airport lawsuit seeks damages to pay the cost of testing and remedying PFAS, compounds sometimes referred to as “eternal chemicals” because they persist for long periods in the environment and in the bodies of people. people and animals. The lawsuit also seeks legal fees and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
PFAS compounds have particularly strong chemical bonds and are used in many industrial and consumer applications for their ability to repel water and grease. They have become popular in fire fighting foams because they can form a film that cuts off oxygen in dangerous fuel fires. These same bonds are what make it so difficult for chemicals to break down over time.
Charleston International Airport performed its own tests for PFAS and found it in soil and groundwater on parts of the property, Aviation Authority attorney Philip Federico said. He did not say how many were found, but said the results warranted further testing.
The complaint asserts that the 26 corporate defendants manufactured, marketed and sold the chemicals “with the knowledge that these toxic compounds would be released into the environment during fire protection, training and response activities, even when they were are used in accordance with the instructions and intentions of the defendants â.
Among the defendants are the companies 3M, DuPont de Nemours and Chemours, a spin-off from a previous version of DuPont. An unspecified “defendant John Doe 1-49” is also listed as a replacement for those who may be found responsible upon discovery of documents, according to the complaint.
3M spokesperson Sean Lynch wrote in an email that “3M has acted responsibly with regard to products containing PFAS, including (fire-fighting foam), and will vigorously defend its environmental stewardship report “.
Dupont and Chemours did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone and email.
“The companies that create this harmful product must be held accountable for knowingly putting a dangerous product in our water,” a statement from airport CEO Elliott Summey read.
A key element of the lawsuit is the corporate reorganization that turned DuPont’s original “performance chemicals” program into Chemours in 2015. The lawsuit claims the restructuring was aimed at transferring assets into a company that would not be not legally responsible for management costs. PFAS pollution.
Federico, who is part of the Maryland-based Schochor, Federico and Staton firm, said corporate restructuring has also played a role in the cases consolidated to hold drugmakers accountable for the opioid epidemic.
“They are engaging in these machinations in this case, and it is not unexpected of us,” Federico said.
As research demonstrating the toxicity of PFAS has developed, it has become a major handicap for the companies that produced it and for the military, which has long used fire-fighting foams on its facilities. Health effects emerging in scientific research include fertility issues, developmental issues, and some links to cancer.
In 2019, The Post and Courier previously reported that one type of PFAS contaminated the drinking water of a trailer park near Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter County. The newspaper did its own water tests to identify the chemical.
Charleston International Airport also has ties to the military and is operated under an agreement with Joint Base Charleston, according to the lawsuit.
Contact ChloÃ© Johnson at 843-735-9985. Follow her on Twitter @_ChloeAJ.