At a press conference yesterday Governor Tony Evers announced that he and Attorney General Josh Kaul are suing manufacturers and other polluters over their contribution to PFAS contamination in the state. The press conference was held at French Island, where high levels of PFAS contamination in wells led the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to provide residents with bottled water since March 2021.
The suit names 18 defendants, including 3M, Tyco, DuPont, Chemguard, and others. Also included are 20 unnamed defendants charged with having “permitted, caused, and/or contributed to the PFAS contamination” of Wisconsin’s natural resources.
The state is partnering with Sher Edling, a San Francisco-based environmental law firm to bring the lawsuit. The complaint, filed yesterday in Dane County Court, alleges chemical companies “knew or should have known” the harm that the PFAS in their products caused to the environment and to people exposed.
PFAS, a family of “forever chemicals” that are highly mobile and difficult to break down, have been scientifically linked to a range of negative health effects such as increased risk of some cancers, developmental impacts in children, and decreased fertility in women. PFAS is common in consumer goods for its non-stick and fire-suppressing effects. In Madison, a main source of PFAS contamination comes from the fire-fighting foam sprayed for decades at Truax Airfield that has leached into the city’s water.
The lawsuit alleges that many of these chemical companies conducted internal research that revealed worrying health consequences of PFAS, but failed to convey any warning to the public and in some cases knowingly misrepresented the truth of the chemicals’ impact. In fact, many companies continued manufacturing and selling PFAS-containing products for decades after such knowledge was internally available.
Through the suit, Wisconsin is demanding the defending chemical companies pay the costs of cleaning up and treating PFAS contamination. The state is also seeking punitive damages and injunctive relief – for the companies being sued to stop contributing to PFAS contamination in Wisconsin.
In his press conference yesterday, Governor Evers said this about the suit: “This lawsuit is about accountability. It’s time to hold these polluters accountable and make them pay for the cost of cleaning up their own mess.”
Reporting for WORT News, this is Emily Kaysinger.