AFFF Contamination of Municipal Water Supplies: What You Need to Know

AFFF Water Contamination Lawsuit

Firefighting foam – or aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) – has been used at many firefighter training facilities, airports, and military bases. AFFF contains high levels of poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS), or forever chemicals, which are closely associated with an elevated risk of certain types of cancer

Many municipalities across the country are claiming that the carcinogens from runoff firefighting foam have leached into their groundwater supplies, compromising the health of their citizens, and that the damages are substantial. If your town or municipality has been affected, you should discuss the matter with a seasoned AFFF cancer lawsuit attorney as soon as possible.

How Groundwater Becomes Contaminated by PFAS “Forever Chemicals”

When firefighters spray the massive amounts of foam required to put out certain kinds of fires, that foam also covers the surrounding ground and is ultimately absorbed through the soil. This is how groundwater in certain areas becomes contaminated with cancer-causing PFAS. Groundwater is water that moves from above to below the ground, and rainwater is a prime example. Because groundwater is one of our main sources of drinking water, its contamination translates to contamination of drinking water supplies in affected areas.

How AFFF is Harmful

AFFF (referred to as A triple F) is used to help fight fuel-based fires, which are common to airports, military bases, and the facilities where firefighters train. These thick, man-made chemical foams are generally sprayed from a hose, and in the process of suppressing fire, they blanket the burning object as well as the ground and area all around it. The foam deprives the fire of the oxygen it needs to continue burning, but also contaminates the ground it covers through absorption. 

The chemicals in these foams are very slow to break down in both the environment and our bodies, which makes them that much more toxic. This is why they are commonly referred to as forever chemicals.

Key Points to Consider About the PFAS Water Contamination Crisis

When it comes to the contamination of our drinking water, it is important to keep the following primary points in mind:

  • PFAS is the larger class of synthetic compound, which includes both perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). These chemicals are the PFAS that are most frequently found in municipal water contamination.
  • Both PFOS and PFOA are primary ingredients in firefighting foams. 
  • Communities that have or are located near military bases, firefighting training facilities, or airports where AFFFs are used are most likely to be negatively affected. 
  • Both PFOS and PFOA are found in products manufactured by major companies like Chemguard, DuPont, and 3M. These are the same type of chemicals – known as C-8 – that are used in Teflon and Scotchgard, and that have received their own negative press regarding health consequences of exposure. 
  • Occupational Medicine reports that firefighters are at a significantly higher risk of dying from cancer, and the carcinogenic chemicals in AFFF are primary contributors.
  • While the government has phased out the use of AFFF based on the significant health risks related, the full extent of its damaging effects on the environment and specific towns, townships, and municipalities remain to be seen.

The Case to Watch 

The case at the heart of the municipal water supply concern is City of Stuart v. 3M, which was filed by the City of Stuart in Florida against 3M and other AFFF companies. The city’s allegation is that these companies knew the health concerns related to the carcinogens in AFFF but did not put the brakes on production.  

Water Contamination Confirmed

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection let the City of Stuart Public Works Department know back in 2016 that its water supply was compromised by PFAS. The dangerously high PFAS levels were ultimately linked to the city’s fire and rescue station, which regularly used AFFF during training exercises performed there. 

What Makes the Case Unique

What makes the Stuart case unique is that it was chosen as the first bellwether trial. “Bellwether” trials are selected as the first in a number of cases, and their outcome should be representative of the cases that follow. While the outcome of a bellwether trial will not be legally binding in subsequent cases, it will set the stage for them and will likely influence legal strategies, negotiations, and decisions regarding how best to proceed moving forward.  

As of June 26, 2023, The City of Stuart reached a confidential settlement agreement with 3M, one of the largest defendants in AFFF litigation. Money from the settlement is intended to reimburse the City for the millions spent on water treatment and filtration systems to address the chemical contamination of their water supply.

Is Your Community’s Water Source at Risk?

A range of large-scale studies of drinking water contaminated by AFFF find that it originates from the underground aquifers that transport contaminated groundwater and surface water to reservoirs. As such, the drinking water in municipalities and townships in areas where AFFF is commonly used is highly susceptible to dangerous contamination. 

Proving Causation

Proving that a municipality’s drinking water has been affected by AFFF contamination comes down to a matter of causation. For example, neither side in the Stuart case disputes that that city’s water is contaminated with high levels of PFAS. Further, neither side disputes that PFAS are harmful. At issue is the matter of conclusively proving that the AFFF products manufactured by the defendants were the direct cause of the city’s water supply contamination. 

Seek the Legal Guidance of an AFFF Water Contamination Attorney Today

The dedicated AFFF cancer lawsuit attorneys at Keefe Law Firm are working with municipalities whose water supplies have been contaminated by the carcinogens contained in AFFF, and we welcome your inquiries. Your town’s drinking source is of paramount importance for the health of your citizens, and a safety breach of this magnitude can be devastating to public health. To learn more about what we can do to help, please don’t wait to reach out by calling us at 888-416-0685