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City sues major manufacturers and insurance companies over widespread water contamination: ’[They] should be accountable’

“Local government taxpayers and water district ratepayers should not be responsible for PFAS drinking water contamination.”

"Local government taxpayers and water district ratepayers should not be responsible for PFAS drinking water contamination."

Photo Credit: iStock

The city of Wausau, Wisconsin, has filed a lawsuit against major PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) manufacturers after the city’s groundwater was contaminated with toxic chemicals. 

What happened?

Napoli Shkolnik, a national law firm, filed the environmental lawsuit on the city’s behalf against 15 PFAS manufacturers and 61 insurance companies. 

According to the suit, as summarized by USA Today, the manufacturers used dangerous chemicals for decades without notifying customers of the associated risks while the insurance companies provided general policies for protecting the PFAS manufacturers from injury liabilities.  

All of the city’s drinking water wells have been contaminated by PFAS allegedly as a result of the manufacturing companies’ use of these chemicals. The city of Wausau is home to 40,000 residents who have been exposed to PFAS in their tap water, per the Wausau Pilot & Review.

PFAS have been labeled “forever chemicals” due to their nondegradable properties. These chemicals have been linked to health effects such as asthma, cancer, thyroid disorders, and infertility. 

Why is the lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers important?

The city of Wausau has one of the most severe cases of PFAS contamination in the state of Wisconsin, reported USA Today. With the rise of environmental and health studies revealing the detrimental effects of PFAS, activists and policymakers are holding companies liable for the damage caused by these harmful chemicals.   

However, PFAS contamination is not just a problem in the state of Wisconsin. PFAS have been found in the blood of 97% of Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

PFAS are potentially dangerous not only for human health but also for the environment. When these chemicals leach into the ground, they contaminate the soil and water, exposing wildlife to these toxic substances. 

What’s being done about PFAS contamination?

When the contamination was first identified in January 2022, the city of Wausau took action by distributing bottled water and filtration pitches to local residents, USA Today reported. Since then, the city council has also approved a $17.5 million water filtration project designed to remove PFAS from the city’s drinking wells. 

While the city is currently taking action to treat the contaminated water, the lawsuit aims to hold the companies involved in the distribution of PFAS accountable. 

“Local government taxpayers and water district ratepayers should not be responsible for PFAS drinking water contamination,” attorney Paul J. Napoli said in the news release. “Those responsible, including relevant insurance companies, which have responsibility for public water system contamination should be accountable.”

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