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NY suing firefighting foam companies for $38M

New York State has filed a lawsuit against six companies that make firefighting foams that contain chemicals that are hazardous to human health, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced Wednesday.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany, claims that the six companies knew or should have known the harmful effects of aqueous film-forming foam containing the chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonic acid/perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) or perfluorooctanoic acid/perfluorooctanoate (PFOA).

The chemicals have been detected at locations across New York, including Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh and Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, the officials said in a news release.

The complaint seeks to force the firms to reimburse New York State for the cost of cleaning up the contaminants, which the state says were also used at airports in New Windsor, Plattsburgh, and Rome.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health have spent more than $38 million to investigate and clean up contamination resulting from the use of the foam, the news release said.

The companies include 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products LP, Chemguard, Inc., Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, National Foam, Inc., and Kidde-Fenwal, Inc.

“3M will vigorously defend this lawsuit. 3M acted responsibly at all times and will defend its record of stewardship in connection with its manufacturing and sale of AFFF,” said company spokeswoman Donna Fleming Runyon, using an acronym for aqueous film-forming foam.

A spokesman for Chemguard and Tyco, which have the same parent company, said they do not comment on pending litigation. Representatives for the other firms could not be reached for comment.

“As state experts continue to investigate contamination caused by firefighting foams, New York is working to end the dangerous practices that threaten our natural resources,” Cuomo said in the release. “By taking necessary legal action against these companies, we are sending a clear message that we will do everything in our power to protect New Yorkers.”

Underwood added, “The conduct of these manufacturers caused widespread contamination of our drinking water and our environment — and jeopardized the health of tens of thousands of New Yorkers.”

The lawsuit contends that the products contaminate the environment, seeping into drinking water and potentially harming people who could experience serious illnesses including cancer, liver damage and immune system defects.

It also claims that the products “were not reasonably safe when used as intended” and that the manufacturers did not provide adequate warning of the potentially deleterious effects of their use.

“When New York’s precious natural resources are threatened, the responsible parties must be held accountable and the public should be compensated for the damage,” state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said.

Added state Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, “Only through our own diligence do we now know that the very products used decades ago to promote public safety, contained chemicals that pose a threat to public health.”

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