Case aims to recover pollution cleanup costs

PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia today filed a lawsuit against the chemical companies responsible for the presence of PFAS on City property and natural resources, including its drinking water supplies. The lawsuit is a civil action and was filed by the City’s Law Department in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.

“You can’t make a mess and expect others to clean it up,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in announcing the filing. “The defendants in this case knew their products were dangerous, but selfishly brought them to market anyway in pursuit of profits. This lawsuit will make them pay the costs the City will now need to incur to treat and remove PFAS to proactively protect Philadelphians and the environment.”

PFAS—toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances—are a class of synthetic chemicals that do not occur naturally in the environment. State and local governments around the country have sued numerous chemical companies responsible for widespread PFAS contamination of natural resources, including both Bucks and Delaware counties locally.

“The Philadelphia Water Department began proactively and voluntarily testing for PFAS in 2019, and no drinking water samples have exceeded the new proposed state limits for PFOA or PFOS, the two most commonly studied types of PFAS,” said Philadelphia Water Commissioner Randy E. Hayman. “This is part of a proactive effort to ensure that PFAS levels in our water remains below all state and federal regulations in the coming years. We support this action to hold those responsible for the pollution accountable in court, and we will continue to inform the public about what we are learning and how we are addressing this issue to ensure the safety of our drinking water.”

The lawsuit pleads five causes of action against the defendants: strict product liability for both design defect and failure to warn, public and private nuisance, trespass, and negligence. It seeks a range of relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, loss-of-use and natural resource damages, and an abatement fund.

Philadelphia’s Law Department pointed to the language of the complaint to summarize the case:

Despite their knowledge that PFAS Products posed grave environmental and human health risks, and despite the availability of safer alternative products, Defendants failed to warn customers, users, the public, and the City about those risks, and they failed to take any other appropriate precautionary measures to prevent or mitigate PFAS contamination of the environment. Instead, Defendants falsely and misleadingly promoted PFAS Products as being environmentally sound and appropriate for widespread use.

The lawsuit in its entirety is available online.


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