Read the full article by Philip DeVencentis (NorthJersey.com)
“Officials have reached settlements totaling $3 million with two large corporations that it sued in April for allegedly polluting the local water supply.
3M Co. will meet its settlement obligation through installments over the next decade, while officials said DuPont de Nemours Inc. is due to pay its much lesser share in a lump sum next year.
The borough filed a lawsuit against the companies and 15 others in state Superior Court in Paterson, claiming that for decades they manufactured, marketed and sold products containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs.
The toxins are sometimes called ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not biodegrade.
Products as ubiquitous as Scotchgard, a stain repellant whose original formula was patented by 3M chemists, once contained PFAs. The toxins were also prevalent in firefighting foams and nonstick coatings, like Teflon, a brand name of DuPont.
The 58-page lawsuit alleged the defendants knew that PFAs would contaminate groundwater if released into the environment.
Hawthorne, which draws its drinking water from 21 wells, spent more than $6.3 million to design and install a filtration system to remove the toxins from the supply.
As a result, consumers were charged 13% more for water use this year. Fees will increase by the same rate in 2024.
The money recouped from 3M and DuPont will make a dent in the damages that the borough and its consumers have incurred, officials said.
Borough Attorney Michael Pasquale strongly recommended the settlements to the Borough Council. He noted that officials would likely be tied up in litigation with the companies for at least five more years if the deals were not made.
And even then, he said, there would be no guarantee of a favorable outcome for the borough.
‘I recommend it to you because it’s in the best interest of our taxpayers,’ Pasquale said to the governing body.
He said the borough is expected to net $2.2 million after legal fees, which include a cost to retain outside counsel from San Francisco.
Pasquale said it was too early to tell how the recouped money would be applied by the borough, but that it may be used as direct relief for consumers or to pay down debt for the filtration system.
‘We haven’t begun to discuss that,’ Pasquale said, ‘because, quite honestly, we’ve been focusing on just trying to get the money.’”