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Mineola files suit against 3M, DuPont, says its products contaminated drinking water

Mineola, Carle Place and Port Washington are seeking

Mineola, Carle Place and Port Washington are seeking an undetermined amount of money from 3M and DuPont. From left, Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss with Thomas Rini, public works superintendent, and James Martin, supervisor of water plant operations. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Village of Mineola is among three Long Island communities suing DuPont and 3M, alleging both companies knowingly sold household products with harmful ingredients that have polluted drinking water.

Drinking water wells in Mineola have been contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOA and PFOS, respectively, village officials contend in a federal lawsuit filed Aug. 9 in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. The lawsuit — which also names 3M subsidiary Dyneon and DuPont spinoff Chemours as defendants — claims the companies are responsible for producing and selling PFOA-based products to Long Islanders. Water districts in Carle Place and Port Washington have filed similar lawsuits. 

DuPont did not respond to requests for comment. A 3M spokeswoman released a statement last week: 

“3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS [perfluoroalkyl substances] and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship,” Fanna Haile-Selassie said. 

PFOA and PFOS are chemicals that factory workers have used for decades to create household products that resist grease, oil, water or stains. They were commonly found in carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and cookware until 2015, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A 2016 EPA study reported a link between human exposure to PFOA and high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy induced hypertension, preeclampsia, as well as kidney or testicular cancer.

Mineola officials allege DuPont, 3M and other company officials have known the effects of PFOA and PFOS since the 1960s. The companies knew or should have known that products containing the chemicals would likely contaminate surface and groundwater, Carle Place and Port Washington said in court documents.

"DuPont company scientists issued internal warnings about the toxicity associated with their PFOA products as early as 1961, including that PFOA caused adverse liver reactions in rats and dogs," the Port Washington Water District lawsuit states. "DuPont’s Toxicology Section Chief opined that such products should be handled with extreme care and that contact with the skin should be strictly avoided.” 

Court documents from the Mineola lawsuit state DuPont had been testing the effects of PFOA for decades. 

“Despite this knowledge, defendants failed to adequately investigate and test their products to ensure they would not cause harm to the public,” the lawsuit states. “By at least 1993, the defendants were aware that PFAS was linked to increased cancer rates in humans exposed to their PFOA products.”

Mineola, Carle Place and Port Washington are seeking an undetermined amount of money from the companies, funds that would be used to upgrade water treatment facilities so they can remove PFOA. The actual dollar amount is “whatever it takes to get the facilities up to speed and to implement whatever technology is identified as effective,” Mineola village attorney John Gibbons said.

Gibbons said he suspects lawyers representing the companies will file a motion to dismiss the case in late September. Gibbons said the goal is for a judge to order a settlement that "would provide an ample pool of money to remove the contaminants from the water.”

Case files

The Village of Mineola, the Carle Place Water District and the Port Washington Water District have made the following claims against 3M, DuPont, Dyneon and Chemours:

  • Port Washington Water District: “As commercial manufacturers, sellers, distributors, suppliers, marketers, and/or designers of PFOA Products, the defendants owed a duty of care to [Port Washington Water District] not to place into the stream of commerce products that were in a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous to drinking water in [the Port Washington service area.”
  • Carle Place Water District: “Defendants failed to describe such hazards or provide adequate precautionary statements regarding such hazards in the labeling of their products containing PFOA and PFOS or otherwise.”
  • Village of Mineola: “PFOA and PFOS have been detected in varying amounts at varying times in the village’s wells, including at levels that have compelled the village to take responsive actions. In addition, PFOA and PFOS’s high mobility and persistence in soil and groundwater means they will likely continue to spread and affect even more of the village’s wells in the future.”

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