The Illinois attorney general has filed a lawsuit against 3M and 13 other large chemical companies that make “forever chemicals,” alleging they contaminated water and other parts of the environment in Lake County and the rest of the state.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday against 14 large chemical companies – including 3M – that manufacture perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also called “forever chemicals.”
The 14 defendants in the lawsuit are Dyneon, LLC; Arkema, Inc.; AGC Chemicals Americas, Inc.; BASF Corporation; Clariant Corporation; Bayer Corporation; The Chemours Company; The Chemours Company FC, LLC; Corteva, Inc.; DowDuPont Inc.; DuPont De Nemours Inc.; E. I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company; Daikin America, Inc; and Solvay Specialty Polymers, USA, LLC.
Raoul alleges the PFAS manufacturers continue to promote the chemicals as safe to manufacture and use despite knowing they are toxic and “pose substantial health and environmental risks,” the civil complaint said.
PFAS are a family of chemical compounds that contain strong carbon-fluorine bonds and help reduce friction. They are used in many consumer and industrial products.
Some uses of PFAS are to keep food from sticking to cookware, making sofas and carpets stain-resistant, making clothes and mattresses more waterproof and making some food packaging resistant to grease absorption.
PFAS chemicals are released into the environment from industrial processes and normal use or disposal of consumer products that contain PFAS, the complaint said.
Humans are exposed to the chemicals through the consumption of contaminated drinking water and food, inhalation, dermal contact and other pathways.
Exposure to PFAS may be linked with adverse health effects like liver damage, altered cholesterol levels and some types of cancer, the complaint said.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently conducted a statewide investigation into the prevalence of PFAS in finished water at 1,428 entry points to the distribution system representing 1,749 community water supplies (CWS) in the state.
Of the entry points sampled, environmental officials detected levels of PFAS that were greater than or equal to Illinois’ Health Advisory Levels at 70 entry points, the complaint said.
Two of those community water supplies – Antioch and Fox Lake – are in Lake County.
“Potential sources of PFAS contamination to the Antioch CWS include biosolids applications, a stormwater impoundment, farms, a trailer/RV park, and an industrial center with several industries traditionally known to use PFAS, including metal coating and plating, electronics manufacturing, and plastic/resin manufacturing.”
“Potential sources of PFAS contamination to the Fox Lake CWS include a chrome plating facility, a wastewater treatment plant, a paving company, and various automotive repair shops.”
The complaint said environmental officials continue to investigate and conduct tests.
“Through Illinois EPA’s statewide investigation into the prevalence of PFAS contamination in our state’s drinking water, it is clear that PFAS contamination can be found in communities throughout Illinois, as a result of the continued use and manufacturing of these chemicals,” Illinois EPA Director John Kim said.
The lawsuit seeks to recover natural resource damages from the alleged contamination and “other monetary damages necessary for Illinois to continue identifying, monitoring, and remediating, where appropriate, contamination to Illinois’ environment and natural resources from perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances.”
Raoul is also seeking to obtain injunctive relief requiring the 14 companies “to take action to prevent ongoing contamination, remediate the areas contaminated, and restore resources injured or impacted by PFAS in the State of Illinois.”
Raoul also filed a lawsuit against 3M in March 2022 alleging the company improperly handled PFAS chemicals, resulting in contamination at and around 3M’s plant in Cordova.
“For decades, manufacturers have been aware of the dangers of PFAS yet still promote the chemicals as being safe to use. As a result, PFAS have contaminated our water supplies across Illinois,” Raoul said.
“The manufacturers of forever chemicals must be held accountable for the widespread contamination to our natural resources. This lawsuit is an important step toward accountability and protecting the surrounding environment and public health,” he added.