The state of New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against eight companies for manufacturing and selling firefighting foam products for decades despite knowing the products released toxic chemicals into the environment.
The lawsuit includes both environmental and consumer fraud claims and seeks natural resource damages and other penalties. This is the 10th natural resource damages lawsuit brought by the state since Gov. Phil Murphy took office in January 2018.
According to the complaint, various manufacturers and sellers created, advertised, and sold aqueous film-forming foam products containing chemicals known as perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.
The 3M Co., Tyco Fire Products LP, Chemguard Inc., Buckeye Fire Equipment Co., Kidde-Fenwal Inc., National Foam Inc., E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., and The Chemours Co. are all defendants.
“The corporations we’re suing today knew full well the health and environmental risks associated with this foam, and yet they sold it to New Jersey’s firefighters anyway,” said Attorney General Grewal in a statement. “Their conduct was unconscionable, and we’re going to hold these companies accountable.”
When sprayed over a fire, AFFF products create a film that coats the fire and blocks its oxygen fire, preventing re-ignition. Military and industrial facilities, airports, firefighting training academies, state government firefighting entities, and local fire departments all purchased AFFF from the defendants.
“To protect our environment and ensure the restoration of damaged natural resources, we must hold responsible the manufacturers who knew of the dangers of these products,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe. “Together with Attorney General Grewal and [Acting Division of Consumer Affairs Director Paul] Rodríguez, I am proud to file this suit to protect New Jersey’s residents as DEP continues to lead the nation in proactively reducing exposure to PFAS chemicals, including the PFOS found in these foams.”
The suit was filed Tuesday in New Jersey Superior Court and alleges that the companies manufactured, marketed and sold their AFFF for decades despite knowing the threat it posted to environmental and human health.
Both PFOS and PFOA persist indefinitely in the environment, bioaccumulate in humans and animals over long periods of time, and biomagnify as they are consumed up the food chain.
These chemicals have been found in groundwater, surface water, sediments, biota, and other natural resources of the state, and are associated with immune system suppression and testicular and kidney cancer.
DEP investigations have confirmed PFOS and PFOA contamination in and around several sites in New Jersey, including Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County; Naval Weapons Station Earle in Monmouth County; the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Trenton; and the Federal Aviation Administration Technical Center in Atlantic County.
Three bodies of water surrounding Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst were found in a 2018 DEP study to have sustained “significant damage” from PFOS and PFOA, according to the complaint. DEP issued fish consumption advisories for Little Pine Lake, Mirror Lake, and Pine Lake based on PFOS found in fish tissue, and a Do Not Eat advisory for sensitive subpopulations.
DEP sampling has also shown elevated levels of the chemicals in Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority’s surface water reservoirs, which are located on FAA Technical Center property.
A statewide investigation continues.