Maine municipality sues chemical companies over PFAS in wastewater

SL Environmental Law Group P.C., a New Hampshire-based law firm, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of York Sewer District against 3M Company, E.I. DuPont de Nemours, Inc., and other manufacturers of PFAS.

The case was filed following sampling of wastewater effluent and biosolids (sludge) from the district’s wastewater treatment plant serving York, Maine. Levels indicate contamination of the wastewater system from mostly household residential sources as York has no significant industry.

PFAS are persistent toxic chemicals that build up over time when released into the environment. Due to the widespread use of these compounds in commercial and consumer products, PFAS tend to concentrate in wastewater streams, making wastewater treatment plants potential avenues of PFAS contamination.

Though not currently regulated at the federal level, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strongly encouraged wastewater treatment plants to test for suspected upstream PFAS sources using the latest sampling methods and effluent guidelines. A risk assessment for PFOA and PFOS in biosolids is also expected to be released by the winter of 2024.

In the absence of federal guidelines, some states have begun enacting wastewater regulations for PFAS. In Maine specifically, the Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to order the cleanup of PFAS contaminated sites or seek compensation from responsible parties to pay for that clean up, and a recently enacted law prohibits the spreading of PFAS-laden sludge and sludge-derived compost as fertilizer.

Exposure to certain PFAS has been associated with negative health outcomes in both humans and animals. PFAS has impacted surface water and groundwater throughout the US, resulting in hundreds of similar suits brought forward by water providers, and mostly against the same defendants, in an ongoing multi-district litigation supervised by a federal judge in South Carolina.

SL Environmental Law Group has many years of experience representing municipalities and water providers across the nation in efforts to recover the costs of treating drinking water and wastewater contamination from the corporations whose products caused the pollution. In collaboration with a team of law firms, SL Environmental Law Group is handling York Sewer District’s case along with several water systems in Maine and more than 100 entities across the country affected by PFAS.

“At York Sewer District we are proudly working to hold polluters accountable. Our rate payers are our top priority. Like so many across the State of Maine, York Sewer District is concerned about the impact of these chemicals to our health, infrastructure, and finances. Therefore, we thought it critical to partner with SL Environmental on this unprecedented matter,” said Phil Tucker, superintendent of York Sewer District.