Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

Escambia County, Florida

Suspected source: ECUA wells contaminated by PFAS from 3M’s firefighting foam used at NAS Pensacola, and by waste disposal/manufacturing emissions at Solutia Chemical company’s Pensacola plant.

Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (“ECUA”) became aware of a potential issue in 2006 when outside parties contacted it concerning possible PFOA and PFOS exposure in the wells.

In 2009, ECUA sued 3M, DuPont, and Solutia,

“alleging that 3M’s aqueous film-forming foam, a firefighting product supplied to the Navy base in Pensacola, failed to adequately warn users about the dangers of the chemicals, leading to contamination of the aquifer. Solutia allegedly used 3M’s chemicals in the manufacture of PFOA- or PFOS-laden nonstick products at a facility in Pensacola, and contributed to the well water pollution by injecting its wastewater into the ground. Ascend Performance Materials LLC acquired the nylon manufacturing plant from Solutia in 2009, according to a spokeswoman for Solutia. The suit also targeted DuPont for the Teflon and other nonstick products containing high levels of PFOA that were tested at the Solutia facility, according to the order.”

ECUA’s expert testified that there could be a correlation between the high birth defect rate in Escambia County, specifically for musculoskeletal and heart defects, and PFOS and PFOA exposure. The Court declined to apply a bright-line rule that a plaintiff cannot suffer injury should the chemicals at issue not exceed any federal or state maximum contaminant level.  But the Court did find that the contamination levels did not exceed the maximum contaminant level and plaintiff failed to show that it had suffered any injury as a result of the presence of chemicals in its water supply.

As part of UCMR3 testing, ECUA’s 26 active water system wells were tested, and 3 showed detectable levels. Two of the affected wells were taken out of service, and the Spanish Trail Well received a granular activated carbon treatment system. In May 2016, the executive director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, Linda Young, sent a letter to the EPA asking for additional testing of ECUA wells, claiming that all Escambia County wells are contaminated.


Additional Resources:

Media Coverage:

Full citations are available on the second page of the full contamination site tracker. We ask for your additions, changes, questions and comments be sent to pfasproject@gmail.com.

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