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Posted on: January 16, 2024

New Hanover County files lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – On January 12, New Hanover County filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen manufacturers and sellers of products that use or contain polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Known as forever chemicals, PFAS contamination of the air, groundwater and surface water has been an ongoing issue affecting Southeastern North Carolina and the New Hanover County community for years. This lawsuit aims to hold these manufacturers and sellers responsible for decades of contamination.

In addition to widespread environmental contamination directly from factories into the environment, this lawsuit also sheds light on the historical use of PFAS in firefighting foam. Firefighting foams containing PFAS, once a common practice, have been identified as a significant source of contamination. These products have inadvertently contributed to the pollution of our environment, posing health risks to our firefighters and residents. New Hanover County has ceased the use of firefighting foam containing PFAS, as part of our commitment to addressing all sources of PFAS contamination and protecting the health and safety of our community.

“The blatant disregard for the health and well-being of our citizens and the environment is something we as County Commissioners take very seriously and it’s why we have authorized this litigation,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Bill Rivenbark. “For decades, companies have allowed these toxins to be released into the air we breathe and water we drink. They’ve also knowingly used PFAS in products that were crucial to public safety but were also contributing factors to contamination. It’s time they were held accountable for their actions and made to be a part of the solution for a problem they created.”

Since the discovery of these substances in the environment, specifically the Cape Fear River and other aquatic sources, New Hanover County has worked with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to address PFAS contamination in the drinking water. CFPUA’s Sweeney Water Treatment Plant brought granular activated carbon filters online in October 2022 to remove PFAS from water supplied by the facility. The project cost more than $43 million to complete and requires approximately $5 million in operational maintenance costs each year. 

As part of the ongoing Chemours Consent Order aimed at addressing the issue in Southeastern North Carolina, residents who get their drinking water from a private well are encouraged to take part in a well-testing program at no cost to the homeowner. If threshold levels of PFAS contamination are detected in the well, as outlined in the consent order, residents are entitled to receive replacement drinking water for free.

The lawsuit, which was filed in New Hanover County Superior Court on Friday, is available in its entirety here.

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