SCV Water files lawsuit over water contamination

SCV Water hosted a virtual ribbon cutting ceremony at a new water treatment facility near Auto Center Drive in Valencia on Oct. 5, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency filed a lawsuit Tuesday against multiple companies over water contamination, alleging toxic chemicals from products manufactured by those named in the case were discharged into the environment. 

Raytheon Technologies, Chemours, DuPont and 3M Co. are among dozens named in the lawsuit “for their roles in introducing PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) into the water supply in Santa Clarita,” according to SCV Water in a news release Thursday. 

PFAS are a family of human-made chemicals that are found in a wide range of products used by consumers and industry, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The human-made chemicals are found in a wide range of products used by consumers and industries, such as carpets, nonstick cookware and paper food packaging. 

The lawsuit alleges that the companies have known “for decades” the dangers of PFAS and failed to provide a warning on the effects they have on human health and the environment. 

“(The companies) sold their products anyway,” Scott Summy, a shareholder from Baron & Budd P.C., the law firm representing SCV Water, said in a statement. “As a result, many water providers have to now deal with the resulting problems. These cases are intended to shift some of the responsibility for paying for the costs of dealing with these contaminants away from the ratepayers and onto the responsible parties.”

Officials with DuPont and 3M said in emails to The Signal Thursday they are “vigorously defending” their positions that they acted responsibly. 

“We are disappointed by the claims made by the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency and believe they are without merit,” read the statement from DuPont. “DuPont de Nemours has never made or sold AFFF firefighting foams, PFOA, PFOS or other perfluorinated compounds in California, or elsewhere. These complaints are the latest example of DuPont being improperly named in litigation, and we look forward to vigorously defending our position.”  

In August 2019, SCV Water officials found trace amounts of PFAS in 17 of the agency’s wells, requiring them to notify key agencies about the discovery. In response, the agency shut down 19 wells due to contamination.  

“SCV Water and other water agencies did not put these chemicals into our water, but over time very small amounts may enter our groundwater supplies through manufacturing and product use and wastewater discharge, which are all potential sources for PFAS,” officials said in an agency video earlier this month.

The agency is seeking compensation for the costs and damages related to PFAS contamination, including “the investigation, remediation, treatment, removal, disposal, and/or monitoring of the ongoing contamination … as well as any and all other damages available as a result of the actions and/or inactions of” the companies, according to the lawsuit. 

The agency’s lawsuit is part of several other public water providers’ lawsuits that were consolidated in one federal district court in South Carolina but remain distinct actions, according to SCV Water spokeswoman Kathie Martin. 

“SCV Water is seeking recovery of the ongoing damages and losses these companies have caused to our water supply,” General Manager Matt Stone said in a statement. “We have taken immediate steps including testing all wells on a quarterly basis and removing a number of impacted wells from service. Our first PFAS treatment facility opened this month, with several more under planning or design. Protecting our community’s water supply will come at a significant cost, and now it’s time to hold the appropriate parties responsible.”

The lawsuit comes as officials opened their new water treatment plant next to the William S. Hart Pony Baseball & Softball park earlier this month, marking it as the first facility in California to combat PFAS from groundwater. The new plant provides sufficient water for 5,000 households. 

The agency is expected to have two additional plants in full operation by 2022, according to officials. 

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