Read the full article by Chad Sokol/ The Spokesman-Review (chronline.com)
“Washington’s Department of Corrections is suing the federal government over decades of chemical runoff from Fairchild Air Force Base that contaminated water supplies and tainted food produced at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.
State attorneys representing the DOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Spokane on Tuesday, accusing the Air Force of negligence and seeking $2.45 million in damages.
It’s the latest in a wave of lawsuits against the United States and manufacturers of aqueous film-forming foam, a toxic fire retardant that was used at Fairchild and other military installations for some 45 years before officials acknowledged it had seeped into aquifers that supply tens of millions of Americans with drinking water.
The DOC says the pollution required it to pay for water testing and forced its business division, Correctional Industries, to collect and dispose of food products that had been sent to a dozen Washington prisons and more than 70 other customers, including a Meals on Wheels charity.
Correctional Industries employs state prison inmates, for as little as $1 an hour, to make furniture, stamp license plates and cook food, among other services. The prison system’s food factory is at Airway Heights.
‘The mitigation and testing required to address the 2017 water contamination was substantial,’ DOC spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie said in an email Friday. ‘Some of the significant expenses resulting from the contamination included staff overtime, external water sources and recall and replacement of food produced at the facility. The department hopes the court will recognize these hardships and direct adequate compensation be provided to recoup the state’s losses.’
The Kalispel Tribe of Indians, which runs Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights, recently filed a similar lawsuit against the government and foam makers, including 3M Co. The tribe says its business was harmed in 2017 when the city realized its tap system contained unsafe levels of the chemicals known as PFAS.
Fairchild officials first acknowledged in early 2017 that groundwater in the area had been contaminated by the firefighting foam, which contains PFAS. The contamination forced Airway Heights to flush millions of gallons from its drinking water system; the city now pipes in water from Spokane…”