Read the full article by Danielle Kaeding (WPR)

“The City of La Crosse claims products containing PFAS chemicals caused contamination of public and private wells in a lawsuit filed against nearly two dozen chemical companies on Thursday.

The suit filed by Milwaukee-based law firm Crueger Dickinson and firm Napoli Shkolnik in La Crosse County Circuit Court alleges that cities like La Crosse used aqueous firefighting foams (AFFF) that contained perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) for decades without any knowledge of the harmful effects the chemicals pose to public health. They say chemical manufacturers like 3M, DuPont and Tyco Fire Products knew of the risks associated with PFAS. 

‘Defendants were aware since the 1960s and 1970s that PFOA and PFOS were toxic, do not biodegrade, are persistent in the environment, move easily through soil and groundwater, and pose a significant risk to human health and health and safety; yet Defendants elected to manufacture and sell products utilizing these chemicals without warning their customers, placing profits over public health and safety,’ the complaint reads.

The lawsuit targets 23 companies that include 3M, DuPont and Chemours, as well as eight manufacturers of firefighting foams known to contain PFAS. PFAS chemicals have raised concerns because they don’t break down easily in the environment. Studies have linked them to harmful health issues, including thyroid disease, reproductive health issues and kidney and testicular cancers.

The lawsuit is among thousands of legal challenges that have been filed across the country by local governments, citizens and firefighters due to PFAS contamination. Attorney Erin Dickinson, partner and co-owner of Crueger Dickinson, told WPR the lawsuit seeks to hold those companies responsible.

‘The city has already incurred significant costs in trying to protect its residents in having to shut down wells and having to test and monitor wells for PFAS, in providing bottled water to affected residents,’ said Dickinson. ‘But, it is also to ensure that the companies causing any of this contamination help pay for the solution and the cleanup on a going forward basis. And, obviously, that is just as important as the costs the city has already incurred and probably more so.’

The city is part of an ongoing investigation into PFAS contamination at the La Crosse Regional Airport on French Island. The investigation began after the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources flagged two city wells for the presence of PFAS last year, which are no longer being used. The La Crosse Fire Department tested firefighting foam containing PFAS at burn pits on the site from the 1970s to the 1980s.

The city hired an environmental consultant to conduct well and groundwater sampling that began in October 2020 within the Town of Campbell near the airport. More than one-third of wells tested last fall — 40 of 109 private wells — showed PFAS levels above the state’s recommended groundwater standard of 20 parts per trillion…”