Environmental Group Files PFAS Contamination Lawsuit Against Pennsylvania Recycling Company

The PFAS lawsuit charges the company with violations of the Clean Water Act, which have left the Susquehanna River polluted with high levels of "forever chemicals"

As individuals across the U.S. continue to file PFAS water contamination lawsuits against a variety of different companies that manufacture the cancer-causing chemicals or products that contain the substances, an environmental group has filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania waste and recycling company alleging it is polluting the Susquehanna River with the toxic chemicals.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeping Association (LSRA) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on January 11, claiming the waste and recycling center, Republic of Pennsylvania LLC, has and continues to violate the Clean Water Act by dumping PFAS “forever chemicals” into the river.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) include over 9,000 man-made chemicals, which have been frequently used in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used to fight petroleum fires, and consumer and industrial products to resist grease, oil, and water since the 1940’s. However, they are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals”, since they persist in the environment and human body, building up over time and increasing the risk of a myriad of adverse health effects, including PFAS cancer risks, as well as liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer.

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Exposure to firefighting foam chemicals may result in an increased risk of cancer for firefighters, military and airport personnel.

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Susquehanna River PFAS Contamination Lawsuit

In the recently filed complaint, LSRA alleges that Republic Services, which owns and operates the Modern Landfill in York, PA, has continuously discharged PFAS chemicals without National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permits into Kreutz Creek, causing wide scale PFAS contamination in the Susquehanna River.

The complaint states that discharge samples from the landfill were collected on June 22, July 15, August 29, and September 30, 2022, and investigators detected extremely high levels of PFAS chemicals. Specifically, testing found two commonly used PFAS chemicals at levels thousands of times higher than the allowable levels in drinking water, as well as 25 other PFAS compounds.

For comparison, in June 2021, the EPA issued updated Drinking Water Health Advisories setting the thresholds for PFOS at 0.02 ppt and PFOA at 0.004 ppt. According to the complaint, June 2022 landfill discharge samples contained PFOS at 374.3 parts per trillion and PFOA at 847 parts per trillion.

LSRA states the chemical discharging of PFAS at such excessive levels into Kreutz Creek has caused harm to the Susquehanna River Watershed and the Chesapeake Bay, by polluting connecting tributaries with the toxic chemicals.

The complaint seeks to have the Court find Republic in violation of the Clean Water Act and permitting laws, and to enforce civil penalties for the continuous violations.

January 2023 PFAS Drinking Water Contamination Lawsuits Update

Manufacturers of PFAS chemicals currently face hundreds of firefighting foam lawsuits brought by individuals diagnosed with cancer after direct contact with the chemicals during their careers as a firefighter. In addition, a growing number of PFAS water contamination lawsuits are being pursued by individuals diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or cancer, after regularly drinking water known to contain the chemicals.

Given common questions of fact and law presented in the claims, all federal water contamination lawsuits over PFAS chemicals in AFFF are currently centralized before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Gergel in the District of South Carolina, for coordinated discovery, pretrial proceedings and a series of early bellwether trials, which are expected to begin this year.

Early in the pretrial proceedings, Judge Gergel established a “bellwether” program that started with a group of water contamination cases going through case-specific discovery in preparation for a series of early trial dates, which are expected to begin around June 2023.

If parties do not reach a firefighting foam water contamination settlement agreement once the pretrial proceedings and bellwether test trials are completed, or the litigation is not otherwise resolved, the cases will be remanded back to their originating federal court districts for trial.

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