Read the full article by Kendra Chamberlain (The NM Political Report)

“The state of New Mexico has joined a multidistrict litigation against the manufacturers of the aqueous film-forming foams that were used in firefighting activities across the country and in Air Force Bases in New Mexico which led to groundwater contamination. 

A U.S. judicial panel earlier this year flagged the state’s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense over the contamination for inclusion in the multidistrict tort proceeding, which encompasses roughly 500 pending cases related to PFAS contamination. The litigation will be heard in a U.S. District Court in South Carolina.

‘That’s a recent development,’ said Chris Atencio, Assistant General Counsel at the New Mexico Environment Department. ‘We’ve gone through that process and our case is now included in that. That’s a recent development, we’re working with our council, the Attorney General’s office and folks internally to try to evaluate the requirements of that process and how best to proceed. That’s where our litigation stands now.’

Defendants in the cases include chemical manufacturing companies Dupont Chemical, 3M and The Chemours Company, a spinoff of Dupont. Both Dupont and 3M have a long history with PFAS compounds. PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, refers to a family of at least 600 synthetic compounds that are widely used in commercial products ranging from fire-resistant carpeting to fast-food wrappers. The first generation of PFAS compounds, including PFOA and PFOS, were first created in a lab in the 1940s. These “long-chain” PFAS compounds are sometimes referred to as C8 compounds, named for a chain of eight carbon atoms in each molecule. Dupont used “C8” PFOA for decades in its production of Teflon, a patented non-stick coating used for cookware; 3M, on the other hand, used PFOS in its Scotchgard product. 

Documents show those companies were aware as early as the 1950s of the dangers to human health posed by exposure to these PFAS chemicals, but did not alert federal regulators of their findings until much later. The first litigation related to PFAS contamination — recently dramatized in the 2019 film Dark Waters — began in the late 1990s between a farmer in Parkersburg, West Virginia and Dupont. 

Nearly three decades later, communities across the country, including here in New Mexico, are still dealing with the legacy of PFAS compounds as more groundwater is being contaminated by the chemicals. 

A body of research pointing to negative health impacts

The West Virginia case revealed Dupont had contaminated the drinking water supply of the town of Parkersburg. A subsequent medical monitoring program found nearly every single resident of the town of 70,000 had PFOA chemicals in their blood. 

“Part of the reason we know so much about the toxicity of these compounds in general, and in particular about PFOA, is because of the contamination of over 70,000 people in Parkersburg, West Virginia and the surrounding communities in the Ohio River Valley,” David Andrews, senior scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, told NM Political Report…”