Port Water District Sues Over Water Contamination

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The Port Washington Water District, along with the Village of Mineola, the Roslyn Water District and Carle Place Water District, filed a lawsuit against 3M Company, Dyneon LLC, E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company and The Chemours Company alleging that the companies knowingly sold products which contaminated the district’s drinking water supply.

The Port Washington Water District (PWWD), which has been in operation since 1913, is a public drinking water provider serving more than 30,000 residents in North Hemsptead, including the villages of Port Washington North, Manorhaven, Baxter Estates, Flower Hill and Plandome Manor. The district owns, operates, manages and supervises 12 drinking water production wells, according to lawsuit documents.

According to the lawsuit, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been found in nearly all of the district’s wells sampled between 2017 and 2019. PWWD maintains in the lawsuit that the defendants manufactured, marketed, sold, and/or promoted the contaminants, products that contained the contaminants and other products that degrade to the contaminants upon release into the environment. The products include, but are not limited to, fluoropolymers, coatings and consumer products.

“PFAS are toxic, not easily biodegradable, persistent in the environment and pose a significant risk to human health and safety,” states the lawsuit. “PFAS are associated with a variety of illnesses, including cancer, and considered particularly dangerous to pregnant women and young children.”

In a 2016 study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a link has been established between the exposure of PFOA and PFOS and adverse health effects such as cholesterol changes, kidney or testicular cancer, increased liver enzymes, high cholesterol and developmental effects to a fetus during pregnancy or for breastfed infants such as low birth weight, accelerated puberty or skeletal variations.

PWWD filed the suit “to recover the substantial costs necessary to protect the public and restore its damaged drinking water supply wells, which are contaminated…from defendants products,” the civil suit states. The suit filed for an unknown amount also states the lawsuit was filed to “recover compensatory damages and all other remedies, including, but not limited to all necessary funds to reimburse the district for the costs of designing, constructing, installing, operating and maintaining treatment facilities and equipment required to remove PFAS from its drinking water well, and all associated costs.”

When the Port Washington News reached out to the PWWD, the board of commissioners responded, “Short-term operational changes have been made to minimize our residents’ exposure to emerging contaminants, 1,4-dioxane and PFAS. As a result of these temporary changes, we are proud to say that there is no water being sent to customers that has concentrations of 1,4-dioxane and PFAS above the state’s recommended maximum contaminant levels of 1 part per billion and 10 parts per trillion, respectively. We are deep in the process of planning and designing for the required construction of the state-of-the-art treatment systems needed to remove these contaminants from our groundwater for the long-term. The Port Washington Water District has filed a lawsuit—along with 31 other water providers throughout Long Island—against the polluters responsible for this contamination. We cannot comment further on this pending litigation.”

A representative from 3M, would not comment on the current lawsuit but stated that “3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”

New York State has recently announced that it will adopt new water quality standards that require treatment when certain levels of PFOA and PFOS contaminants are detected. Because these contaminants have been detected throughout the underground aquifer, many Long Island water districts are now facing new mandates to install expensive treatment facilities to remove PFOA and PFOS from our wells.

Additional reporting by Caroline Ryan

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