Seven Montgomery County residents have sued 3M and several other chemical companies over the contamination of their drinking water by firefighting foam used at a nearby military base.
The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Kevin and Elizabeth Voelker, claim that the chemicals used in training exercises at the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Horsham and the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster seeped into the groundwater flowing to their home and poisoned them.
According to the complaint filed this week, the plaintiffs suffered a host of maladies, including kidney and testicular cancers and ulcerative colitis, all allegedly contracted from drinking the contaminated water over a period of several years.
The residents pegged the cause of their diseases to two ingredients in firefighting foam, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The foam was used on the bases in Horsham and Warminster beginning in the 1960s up until the closure of the Horsham base in 2011.
Their lawyers claim the initial seven cases are the first of hundreds expected to be filed on behalf of local residents suffering from the results of chemical contamination of their drinking water.
3M, which according to the complaint was the primary manufacturer of PFOS and PFOA, did not respond to a request for comment.
The plaintiffs claim that 3M and the other defendants neglected to tell users of the potential dangers of Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF.
“Upon information and belief, at no time during the relevant period did the defendants warn users of the AFFF that ingredients in the AFFF were persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic, or that, once introduced into the environment, its chemical components would readily mix with ground and surface water and migrate off the bases, contaminating the drinking water of the surrounding communities, and exposing tens of thousands of innocent people, including plaintiffs, to water contaminated by their products,” the lawsuit said.
Larry Cohan of Anapol Weiss is representing the plaintiffs.
“These filings represent a significant step forward in pressing the rights of the neighbors of the bases whose water was contaminated by this firefighting foam,” Cohan said. “This will mark the beginning of the litigation for the claims of individuals who are suffering from cancers and other serious illnesses.”
In 2016, 3M was hit with a class action lawsuit in federal court involving similar claims.
The plaintiffs in that litigation demanded compensation for medical monitoring and property damage, claiming the defendants—including 3M, Angus Fire and its subsidiary National Foam, The Ansul Co., Buckeye Fire Protection Co. and Chemguard—failed to warn users about the chemicals used in AFFF.