On Sept. 8, 2023, the Michigan Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) against the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority (the Authority), the operator of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Kent County. The suit asserts claims under Part 31 and Part 201 of the Michigan environmental code.

EGLE alleged the presence of PFAS compounds in excess of Part 201 standards originating from operations at the Airport property and off-site in residential drinking water, streams, and groundwater nearby.

EGLE also alleged that the Authority exceeded permit limits for various non-PFAS compounds, that it failed to report other stormwater discharge sampling data, that it failed to submit certain monitoring reports in three successive years, and that PFOS detected also exceeded the Rule 57 (323.1057) Water Quality Values.

Continue Reading EGLE Sues Grand Rapids Airport Authority Over PFAS Discharge

The coalition of law firms, including Taft, working together to lead litigation and secure settlements on behalf of those harmed by PFAS chemical contamination has announced additional significant developments in the implementation of their new settlements with 3M and DuPont-related companies that will provide benefits of up to $13.6 billion for public water providers across the country. Taft partner Rob Bilott is one of the coalition’s lawyers and has been working on these PFAS issues for more than two decades when he brought the first PFAS case in the country in 1999.

On Aug. 29, 2023, the federal court in South Carolina overseeing the ongoing nationwide litigation over damage caused by PFAS in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) granted preliminary approval of the settlement with 3M, valued at up to $12.5 billion. This follows the Court’s similar preliminary approval of the settlement with DuPont and its related companies on Aug. 22, 2023, valued at an additional $1.185 billion. Together, these settlements represent the largest drinking water settlements in US history.

Continue Reading Additional Drinking Water Settlement Developments Announced by Taft and Lawyers Leading PFAS Litigation Nationwide

Taft is among a coalition of law firms that have been working together for over a decade to lead litigation and secure settlements on behalf of those harmed by PFAS chemical contamination. The coalition has announced two significant developments in the implementation of their new settlements with 3M and DuPont-related companies that will provide benefits of up to $13.6 billion for public water providers across the country. Taft partner Rob Bilott is one of the coalition’s lawyers and has been working on these PFAS issues for more than two decades when he brought the first PFAS case in the country in 1999.

On Aug. 22, 2023, the federal court in South Carolina overseeing the ongoing nationwide litigation over damage caused by PFAS in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) granted preliminary approval of the settlement with DuPont and its related companies. Bilott serves as the Court-appointed Advisory Counsel to the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in the AFFF multi-district litigation.

On Aug. 23, 2023, a new website for the DuPont and 3M settlements was published, available at www.PFASWaterProviderSettlement.com. The site provides additional information as to estimated ranges of potential recoveries by individual public water providers under both of the proposed settlements.

Read more here.

Over the last several weeks, appellate courts in two states have issued decisions with varying impacts on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) regulations at the state level. In New Jersey, the New Jersey Appeals Court has upheld the strict PFAS drinking water standards promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in an opinion issued Aug. 3, 2023. In contrast, just yesterday, a Michigan appeals court invalidated the PFAS drinking water standards issued by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

Continue Reading Michigan Court of Appeals Decision Upends State’s Regulation of PFAS in Drinking Water

Recent research conducted by the United States Geological Survey (“USGS”) determined that at least 45% of the tap water in the United States is projected to contain at least one type of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”). The USGS’s study assessed over 700 private and public tap water supplies in the United States, though they believe that the lack of detailed information about PFAS exposure in unregulated private wells may impact their projected estimated of PFAS-impacted tap water.

USGS’s research compared human PFAS exposures in 716 different locations, with 269 unregulated private wells, and 447 regulated public-supply tap water sources analyzed across the US from 2016–2021. The study found estimated median cumulative concentrations being similar among private wells and the public-supply. USGS has determined that the results are definitive evidence that further assessments of the health risks of PFAS as a class of contaminant, and in combination with other co-occurring contaminants (meaning other contaminants which are likely to be present alongside PFAS), are necessary.

Continue Reading Recent United States Geological Survey Finds Over 45% of Tap Water Contaminated by PFAS

In June 2023, the U.S. Circuit Court for the Sixth Circuit declined to resolve a unique PFAS state-law issue in Admiral Insurance Co. v. Fire-Dex LLC when it rejected an insurer’s attempt to avoid coverage for per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) lawsuits and found that the U.S. District Court properly declined to exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute.

Background

In Admiral, the insurer (Admiral) brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio seeking declaratory judgment determining that Admiral was not required to defend its insured, Fire-Dex, in a string of actions alleging injuries and damages, primarily cancer, caused by exposure to PFAS-containing products.

Continue Reading 6th Circuit Declines to Resolve PFAS Coverage Dispute

Taft partner Rob Bilott is quoted and featured in the TIME article “’Forever Chemical’ Lawsuits Could Ultimately Eclipse the Big Tobacco Settlement,” published on July 12. The article discusses the evolution of PFAS lawsuits starting with the Tennant farm case filed by Bilott in 1998. Today, there are more than 15,000 claims that have been filed against the major manufacturers of PFAS in the U.S.

On June 2, 2023, a settlement valued at approximately $1.2 billion was announced with DuPont and related companies to address contamination of U.S. public drinking water supplies with PFAS “forever chemicals.” Soon thereafter, on June 22, 2023, an additional, similar settlement valued at up to another $12.5 billion was announced with the 3M Company. Both settlements were announced in the context of ongoing multi-district litigation (MDL) involving claims by public water providers, states, and others impacted all over the country by PFAS released from aqueous film-forming firefighting foam (AFFF). Bilott serves as the court-appointed Advisory Counsel to the Plaintiffs Executive Committee in the AFFF MDL. These latest settlements follow settlements valued collectively at over $753 million in 2017 and 2021 in the C8 personal injury MDL against DuPont, where Bilott serves as co-lead counsel for the Plaintiffs Steering Committee.

Dubbed by The New York Times Magazine as “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” in an article published on Jan. 6, 2016, Bilott has represented a diverse array of clients, nationwide, who have been harmed by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “Forever Chemicals.” His work is the subject of a recent feature film, “Dark Waters,” and the documentary “The Devil We Know,” and is detailed in his book, “Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-year Battle Against DuPont.”

In May 2023, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the results of its analysis of ten different pesticide products sampled for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). EPA’s sampling efforts were prompted by a highly publicized September 2022 third-party study that reported the presence of PFAS (in particular, perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS)) in six out of ten pesticide products sampled. The September 2022 study caused alarm as to the potential for unknown PFAS content or cross-contamination of certain pesticide products. However, EPA’s more recent sampling of ten pesticide products, using a new and purportedly more accurate sampling method, casts doubt on the prior sampling results since EPA did not detect PFAS in any of the ten pesticide products it sampled. EPA emphasized in its May 2023 announcement that it is confident in the results of its newer sampling method, which is specifically targeted to analyze for PFAS in pesticide products formulated with surfactants and non-volatile oils.

EPA obtained samples of the ten pesticide products from the third-party study author and from purchases of the same products on the open market. EPA evaluated the ten pesticide products using both EPA’s new method (the ACB Method) and the method used in the third-party’s earlier study (the Lasee Method). EPA did not detect any of the 29 additional PFAS for which EPA screened the pesticide products for (including PFOS), above the lab instrument’s detection limit of 0.2 parts per billion (ppb). Notably, EPA’s detection limit is 2,500 times more sensitive than the limit in the earlier third-party study. EPA requested additional information and raw data from the study author but did not receive anything other than the published results.

Continue Reading EPA Sampling Raises Questions on Prior Detections of PFAS in Pesticide Products

EPA has released a newly developed and validated analytical methodology for testing pesticide products for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Referred to as the ACB Method, this new PFAS-detection method was developed by EPA’s Analytical Chemistry Branch (ACB). The ACB Method primarily differs from an alternative PFAS-detection method (the Lasee Method) in its approach to sample preparation. As background, the Lasee Method was introduced by Steven Lasee in November 2022 in his co-authored study titled “Targeted Analysis and Total Oxidizable Precursor assay of several insecticides for PFAS” in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

The Lasee Method prepares a sample through dilution in a solvent/water solution to dilute the matrix using a single instrument for analysis. The ACB Method requires a more intense extraction to isolate PFAS compounds from the sample matrix before instrumental analysis, thereby reducing matrix interference and increasing the accuracy of PFAS detection. In short, EPA’s ACB Method is designed to eliminate interference from non-volatile oils and surfactants present in pesticide formulations that can result in false positive detections of PFAS. EPA’s verification analysis contains additional scientific details on the difference between the two methods and the significance of using EPA’s ACB Method when testing specific formulations.

Continue Reading EPA Releases New Method of Testing for PFAS in Pesticide Products

On June 29, 2023, EPA issued its “Framework for TSCA New Chemicals Review of PFAS Premanufacture Notices (PMNs) and Significant New Use Notices (SNUNs)”—its latest effort to stop the environmental release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This move targets PFAS at the industry source in order to eliminate risks before PFAS enter commerce.

PFAS are of great public and governmental interest because of their widespread use in a variety of products, ability to persist in the environment, and documented adverse human health and environmental effects. This past March, PFAS received exceptional public attention when EPA proposed its first-ever national drinking water standards for six PFAS. However, new PFAS entering the marketplace present a significant challenge for EPA to evaluate. Often, there is insufficient information on the new substance in order to quantify risk and make effective decisions regarding its regulation—there are thousands of different PFAS, but data for only a small fraction are available to the broader scientific community, regulators, and the public.

Continue Reading EPA Announces New Framework for New PFAS in Industry