Read the full article by Sammy Fretwell (The State)
“A South Carolina couple whose backyard well was contaminated by industrial chemicals has taken three corporate giants to court, alleging that the companies are responsible for pollution that worked its way into the family’s drinking water. Jamie and Kim Weatherford, who live in rural Darlington County, are suing the E.I. DuPont de Nemours, 3M and Chemours corporations for damages in a case that could cost the companies millions of dollars. The Weatherfords say a textile mill in the town of Society Hill provided industrial sludge to farmers for use as a fertilizer, but the sludge was polluted with ‘forever chemicals’ that the big industries had supplied to the mill. The chemicals then seeped from farm fields into the groundwater that feeds the Weatherfords’ well, they say. DuPont, Chemours and 3M knew, or should have known, the chemicals were toxic and would leak into groundwater, the suit says.
Forever chemicals are of increasing concern nationally because they don’t break down easily in the environment and are tied to an array of illnesses, including cancer. Vincent Sheheen, a Camden lawyer representing the Weatherfords, said the lawsuit is intended to help the Weatherfords and others whose land has been devalued or their drinking water ruined by pollution that seeped out of the sludge. ‘We have families who now have their wells, their property, their family homes contaminated by these forever chemicals, that just like the name says, are never going away,’ Sheheen said. ‘If you think about who should bear that cost, it should not be the innocent property owners, it should be the people and the companies that made billions of dollars off these chemicals.’
Waste sludge generated at the Galey and Lord textile plant was put on more than 300 farm fields covering nearly 10,000 acres, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says. Much of it was applied in Darlington, Chesterfield and Marlboro counties, the EPA says. The sludge, a mushy gunk created by the textile manufacturing process, was allegedly used as a fertilizer over a 20-year period, beginning in 1993.
Galey and Lord’s textile plant was abandoned in 2016 and has since been declared a federal Superfund site, meaning it is on a priority list for cleanup because of substantial pollution. Sediment in the Great Pee Dee River and wetlands near the plant were contaminated with forever chemicals, known formally as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, according to the federal government.
In legal filings, lawyers for DuPont, Chemours and 3M say the industries are being blamed for a problem caused by the Galey and Lord textile plant, and the lawsuit should be tossed out of court. The case against the industries ‘is devoid of plausible, factual allegations (and) silent as to the real alleged wrongdoers here — the owners and operators of the G&L facility,’ attorneys for the industries wrote in a Sept. 9 legal filing. A spokesman for 3M said in an email Thursday that the company ‘acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.’ Efforts to reach spokespeople for DuPont and Chemours were not successful.
The abandoned Galey and Lord textile plant in Society Hill is a polluted federal Superfund cleanup site. Sammy Fretwell/The State Galey and Lord was not named in the federal lawsuit, but a separate lawsuit filed Nov. 3 in state court names the textile company and its former parent, Burlington Industries. The state suit also was filed by the Weatherfords. They are seeking compensation for ‘significant damages,’ including the cost of filtering polluted water and air, replacing plumbing fixtures and appliances, and a reduced value to their property. Galey and Lord and Burlington at one time filed for bankruptcy, but some compensation could be available as they emerge from the proceedings, attorneys said. Efforts to locate someone to speak for the companies were unsuccessful last week.” …