Orange County Cities, Water Districts File Lawsuit Against 3M, DuPont Over Contaminated Water

Orange County Cities, Water Districts File Lawsuit Against 3M, DuPont Over Contaminated Water
Water flows through a channel in Fullerton, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Drew Van Voorhis

The Orange County Water District and cities throughout the county have filed a joint lawsuit against 3M, DuPont, and other companies, claiming the defendants deliberately contaminated groundwater and water systems throughout the Southern California region.

The plaintiffs—including the cities of Orange, Anaheim, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and Tustin, along with the water districts of East Orange County, Irvine Ranch, Serrano, and Yorba Linda—allege that the companies contaminated the Orange County Groundwater Basin and the Santa Ana River with polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The water supply in question services more than 2.5 million people.

PFAS are man-made chemicals that include PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctane acid), and are widely used in the manufacturing industry when producing many common household products. The chemicals are toxic to the environment and the human body, and can lead to adverse health effects in humans.
The lawsuit, filed by SL Environmental Law Group in Orange County Superior Court on Dec. 1, seeks to address “widespread contamination” of surface water and groundwater in the Basin, and to “recover costs” associated with the contamination.

It also seeks to abate the “ongoing nuisance these chemicals constitute in the environment” and ensure that they “do not present a risk to the public.”

The lawsuit alleges that 3M, DuPont, and DECRA Roofing Systems, located in the City of Corona, all contributed to the contamination of the Basin. It also lists “Doe defendants 1-100” as part of the suit, allowing for the possibility that other defendants may be added later.

DuPont, 3M, and some other companies included in the complaint did not reply to The Epoch Times as of press deadline. Representatives of DuPont and 3M did, however, tell the Southern California Record that they find the claims meritless.

“3M acted responsibly in connection with PFAS and will vigorously defend itself against the allegations in this lawsuit,” Sean Lynch, communications strategist for 3M Communications, told the Record.

Dan Turner, reputation and media relations leader for corporate communications at DuPont, also denied the claims made by the California water districts.

“DuPont de Nemours has never made or sold PFOA, PFOS, or other perfluorinated compounds in California, or elsewhere,” Turner told the Record. “These complaints are the latest example of DuPont being improperly named in litigation, and we look forward to vigorously defending our position.”

The lawsuit alleges that 3M, which has had a manufacturing facility in Corona since 1941 that produces granules used in asphalt and metal roofing shingles, includes the chemicals as part of their manufacturing operations.

DECRA Roofing Systems allegedly contributed to the problem by purchasing the granules from 3M and using them to produce their products. The company’s runoff contains the harmful chemicals, according to the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that DuPont marketed and sold products containing PFAS for decades, attempted to conceal the toxicity of the products from consumers, and reorganized in 2014 to reduce liability for the toxic products.

According to the suit, 3M has known about the toxicity of PFAS since the 1950s, and as early as 1960 the company knew that, “chemical wastes from its PFAS manufacturing facilities that were dumped to landfills would leach into groundwater and otherwise enter the environment.”

It adds that 3M began monitoring the blood of its employees for PFAS as early as 1976, and that documents from 1977 related to the blood tests confirmed that PFAS bioaccumulate in humans.

The suit alleges that the defendants “knew or reasonably should have known that these harmful compounds would reach groundwater, pollute drinking water supplies, render drinking water unusable and unsafe, and threaten the public health and welfare.”

Drew Van Voorhis is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. He has been a journalist for six years, during which time he has broken several viral national news stories and has been interviewed for his work on both radio and internet shows.