Bellbrook sues over 30 companies over ‘forever chemicals’ contaminating water supply

BELLBROOK — Nearly three dozen companies were named in a lawsuit filed by the City of Bellbrook claiming some of the companies’ products contaminated the city’s water supply with so-called “forever chemicals.”

The 48-page lawsuit was filed in Greene County Common Pleas Court in late October, naming several high-profile companies in the suit including 3M, DuPont, Tyco Fire Products and others for a total of 32 named companies and 49 unnamed defendants, according to court records obtained by News Center 7.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of creating, selling and marketing products at various times dating back to the 1960s that have contaminated the city’s drinking water supply with substances known as “forever chemicals,” but officially called polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and two acids known as PFOA and PFOS.

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PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that include PFOA and PFOS. They are used in products such as carpeting, upholstery, cookware, food packaging and firefighting foam.

Citing a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency document, the lawsuit said the chemicals are “highly water soluble” and “increase the rate at which they spread throughout the environment.”

The lawsuit claims that PFOA and PFOS are toxic and persistent in the environment, posing a “significant risk to human health and safety and the environment.” It also claims that by the early 1980′s, the companies knew or “reasonably should have known” that the two acids were toxic and mix easily with surface water and groundwater when released into the environment.

According to the EPA, exposure to PFAS may result in developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breast-fed infants, cancer, either testicular or kidney, liver effects, immune effects, thyroid effects.

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PFAS have been a focus for several years in the area, including in 2019 when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine order the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Department of Health to analyze the presence of PFAS in Ohio’s drinking water. Presence of PFAS has also led to other lawsuits in the area including the City of Dayton suing Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 2021 for failing to stopping contaminants from entering the city’s water supply. More recently, the City of Fairborn filed a lawsuit against many of the same company in Bellbrook’s lawsuit for similar accusations.

“Defendants’ Fluorosurfactant products used at or near (City of Bellbrook’s) property were defective in design and unreasonable dangerous because, among other things: PFOA and PFOS cause soil and water contamination, even when used in their foreseeable and intended manner,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that the companies “breached their duty to warn” but failing to warnings about the potential and/or actual threat to human health and environmental contamination to the City of Bellbrook, public officials, purchasers, downstream handlers and the general public.

News Center 7′s Haley Kosik spoke with Bellbrook City Manager, Rob Schommer Wednesday about the lawsuit. He said the city has and continues to treat the water, but the price to keep it clean and safe is not cheap. Now, the city wants to hold the companies they’re suing accountable.

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“The goal is to make sure that the high quality water standards and cleanliness that we have today is sustained and maintained, and if that is interrupted by the effects of a company or chemical, we’re going to ask them to remediate that and remove that,” Schommer said.

The lawsuit seeks “compensatory or consequential damages” for all past and future costs for the city to investigate, treat, remove, and monitor PFAS contamination. However the city does not list a dollar amount they are seeking in full from the companies.

“We don’t want to pass the cos of managing that onto our ratepayers or our taxpayers,” Schommer said.