PROVIDENCE – R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced Thursday that he has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of “forever chemicals,” most commonly known as per- and polyfluorinated substances, or PFAS, claiming those companies violated state environmental and consumer protection laws.
In the complaint filed in Providence County Superior Court, Neronha alleges the forever chemicals have caused significant harm to the residents and natural resources of Rhode Island, and that the manufacturers engaged in a massive and widespread campaign to knowingly deceive the public, moving assets to avoid paying for damages they caused and that they continued to manufacture, market and sell these hazardous chemicals for decades while knowing the risks and reaping enormous profits in the process.
Neronha is seeking damages from the defendants to cover the costs of mitigation and remediation of PFAS contamination, as well as punitive damages and disgorgement of profits, which is defined as giving up profits that were obtained illegally, either on request or by court order, to prevent unjust enrichment.
“We are still uncovering the consequences of exposure to these hazardous chemicals by Rhode Islanders, but the burden of this enormous cost should be borne by the companies who made, marketed, and sold these products at great profit, while hiding their true dangers,” Neronha said in a statement. “As alleged, these companies concealed from the public, regulators, and consumers the dangers posed by these chemicals and now their chemicals have infiltrated virtually everywhere from our waterways to our bloodstreams. They have broken the law and harmed the people and natural resources of Rhode Island. We intend to hold them accountable for that.”
The R.I Department of Health, working in conjunction with the R.I. Department of Environmental Management and researchers from Brown University, recently detected significantly elevated concentrations of PFAS in numerous public water systems and many private wells near areas where these products were known to be used. As alleged in the complaint, there is likely contamination from numerous military installations, fire-fighting training sites and industrial sites such as the Naval Station in Newport, Camp Fogarty, Quonset Point and the Bradford Dyeing Association site in Westerly.
Exposure to PFAS has been associated with various significant negative health effects impacting reproductive health, childhood development and increasing the risk of certain cancers.
“Work to ensure healthy and safe communities by addressing PFAS and other environmental contaminants is at the core of public health,” Interim Director of Health Dr. Utpala Bandy said in a statement. “Legal actions like the one announced today are an important complement to the PFAS work being done in RIDOH’s Division of Environmental Health and State Health Laboratories. This includes partnering with water systems throughout the state to test for PFAS and ensuring that drinking water is treated when elevated levels are found. We will continue to collaborate closely with federal, state, and local partners to limit exposure to PFAS whenever possible in Rhode Island.”
The defendants listed in the lawsuit include 3M company; AGC Chemicals Americas Inc., AMEREX Corp., Archroma U.S. Inc., Arkema Inc., BASF Corp., Buckeye Fire Equipment Co., Carrier Fire & Security Americas Corp., Carrier Global Corp., Chemdesign Products Inc., Chemguard Inc., Clariant Corp., Corteva Inc., Dupont De Nemours Inc., Dynax Corp., EIDP Inc., Kiddie PLC Inc., National Foam Inc., The Chemours Co. and Tyco Fire Products LP.
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