Water co-op files lawsuit over PFAS chemicals

Jun. 10—The Roosevelt County Water Co-op has filed a lawsuit in the federal New Mexico district naming 23 manufacturers of products that contain PFAS and PFOS chemicals. The suit alleges the chemicals have contaminated ground water in areas around Cannon Air Force Base, including sources used by the water co-op, seeking damages and corrective action.

Singleton Schreiber, a law firm based in Los Lunas, filed a lawsuit that alleges products containing PFAS from several large manufacturers contaminated water and soil in and around Portales.

According to a Singleton Schreiber news release, the suit aims to recover damages for the "investigation, remediation, removal, disposal, treatment and monitoring" of the various areas contaminated with PFAS, which is called a "forever chemical" because it is stable and difficult to remove from the environment.

The suit alleges these PFAS chemicals are located in soil, surface water, groundwater, land, facilities, infrastructures and more in areas surrounding Cannon, where PFAS-containing chemicals were used for firefighting exercises..

A few of the companies named in the lawsuit have responded to requests for comment.

A 3M Company spokesperson, Grant Thompson, wrote in an email, "3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS — including aqueous film-forming foam (used in firefighting) — and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship."

Another company, Tyco responded in an email from spokesperson Kathleen Cantillon, that "Tyco does not comment about ongoing litigation."

Arkema, another company commented through spokesperson Janet Smith, "I'm afraid that we won't comment given that this is active litigation."

Other companies named in the lawsuit did not respond to requests for comment sent Thursday. They include BASF, E. I. DuPont De Nemours and Company, Chubb Fire, Ltd., Raytheon Technologies and Dynax Corporation, among others.

According to the lawsuit, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have been detected in the water in Portales, which provides the water used by the Roosevelt County Water Co-op.

The lawsuit describes these compounds as "toxic and persistent in the environment."

They "do not biodegrade," the lawsuit states, and they "move through groundwater and soil, and pose a serious threat to human health and safety."

The suit also alleges the manufacturing and distribution companies named persisted in manufacturing and marketing these compounds even after they had reason to consider them harmful.

According to the complaint, Cannon Air Force Base has been using these chemicals for decades, and these chemicals have migrated into the soil and groundwater beneath the base.

The suit cites U.S. Environmental Protection Agency findings that demonstrate exposure to PFAS chemicals can lead to reproductive effects in pregnant women, developmental effects or delays in children, increased cancer risks, reduced ability of the body's immune system to fight infections, and interference with the body's natural hormones.

Singleton Schreiber attorney Paul Starita stated in the news release: "The dangers posed by PFAS, or forever chemicals, has been an open secret for some time."

Starita continued, "Now, after making billions of dollars or more off of the sales of these hazardous chemicals, it's time to hold these companies accountable for the harm they caused residents, service members, and first responders."

Attempts to reach Ursula Parker, the co-op's general manager, on Friday, were not successful.