Contaminated water lawsuits have emerged as a powerful tool in the fight for environmental justice and public health. In recent years, there has been a surge in legal actions taken against corporations, government entities, and other responsible parties for polluting water sources.
These ongoing lawsuits have brought attention to the severe consequences of water contamination and have spurred regulatory reforms aimed at preventing future incidents.
This article delves into the developments in contaminated water cases.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
The Camp Lejeune contamination water lawsuit was filed by military personnel and their families exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987.
The lawsuit alleges that the government knew about the contamination but failed to take action to protect its service members and their families. The contaminated water at Camp Lejeune contained a variety of chemicals, including trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), dichloroethylene (DCE), and vinyl chloride. These chemicals are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other health problems.
TorHoerman Law notes that the lawsuit is still ongoing, but it has the potential to be one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history. As of July 2023, over 60,000 claims have been filed with the Department of Defense. Congress estimates that the federal government may have billions in legal liability for the toxic Camp Lejeune contamination.
The Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit is a complex and important case. It is a reminder of the importance of protecting our drinking water and the need for accountability when government agencies fail to do so.
The Flint Water Crisis
The Flint Water Crisis is a case of contaminated water that is often compared to the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit. In both cases, government agencies were responsible for providing safe drinking water to their citizens, but they failed to do so.
The Flint Water Crisis began in 2014 when the city of Flint in Michigan switched its water source to the Flint River. The river water was not properly treated, and it caused lead to leach into the city’s drinking water.
As a result, thousands of residents were exposed to lead poisoning, which can cause various health problems, including learning disabilities, developmental delays, and neurological damage.
In 2021, inhabitants of Flint achieved victory in a class action lawsuit, securing a substantial $626 million settlement. This legal triumph was directed against multiple entities, including the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, an engineering firm, and a hospital.
However, almost a decade after water contamination wreaked havoc in Flint, communities continue to bear the brunt. For many residents in this predominantly Black city, the aftermath lingers in the form of persistent health challenges.
Nakiya Wakes, a mother, shared in an interview with ABC News’ GMA3 the enduring repercussions of lead exposure on her family. The news channel spoke to several other mothers whose children continue to grapple with the consequences of the water crisis that unfolded nine years ago.
Parkersburg, West Virginia Water Contamination
The Parkersburg water contamination is another example of a major contaminated water lawsuit. In this case, the plaintiffs are residents of Parkersburg who were exposed to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in their drinking water.
PFOA is a synthetic chemical that was used in the production of Teflon and other products. It is a known carcinogen, and it has been linked to several health problems, including cancer, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol.
The contamination in Parkersburg began in the 1970s when a chemical company, DuPont, began dumping PFOA into the Ohio River. The chemical seeped into the city’s drinking water supply, and as a result, thousands of residents were exposed to PFOA.
For decades, PFAS waste from the Washington Works facility contaminated Parkersburg’s water supply under the management of DuPont before its separation into Chemours. This situation prompted legal battles in the early 2000s. It extended over the years and eventually culminated in 2017 with substantial settlements totaling $671 million for residents.
Additionally, an epidemiological study established a connection between DuPont’s PFAS and health issues among the town’s residents.
The Guardian recently reported that the DuPont incident led to an unprecedented move by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It involves stringent enforcement measures against PFAS contamination. This involves directing the chemical company Chemours’ Parkersburg plant in West Virginia to halt the discharge of highly hazardous PFAS waste into the Ohio River.
The enforcement action arises from a violation of the Clean Water Act. The EPA’s order highlights 71 instances from September 2018 to March 2023 wherein Chemours’ Washington Works facility exceeded its permitted limits for PFAS waste discharge.
Hinkley, California Water Contamination
The Hinkley, California water contamination is another such example that has had a significant impact on the future of contaminated water litigation.
The lawsuit was filed against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) by residents of Hinkley, California. They were exposed to hexavalent chromium in their drinking water.
Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen, and the residents of Hinkley were exposed to high levels of the chemical for over 30 years. The lawsuit was settled in 1996 for $333 million, which was the largest settlement ever awarded in an environmental lawsuit at the time.
The Hinkley lawsuit set a precedent for other lawsuits involving contaminated water. It showed that plaintiffs could successfully sue corporations for damages caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. It also led to increased government regulation of drinking water and greater awareness of the risks of exposure to hexavalent chromium.
Recently, a USGS report illuminates how the geological composition of the valley influences the baseline levels of hexavalent chromium found in groundwater. The study unveiled an average hexavalent chromium concentration of 3.8 micrograms per liter for Hinkley Valley. It also specified background concentrations in distinct areas within the valley.
Developed by the USGS, the report’s findings hold the potential to shape the regulatory endeavors in addressing human-induced hexavalent chromium contamination.
The realm of contaminated water litigation stands as a critical battleground in the fight for environmental justice, public health, and corporate accountability. As the legal landscape evolves, recent developments underscore the potential to reshape regulatory frameworks and corporate behavior.
Cases like the Flint water crisis and Camp Lejeune serve as reminders of the profound impact water contamination can have on communities. While legal challenges persist, the surge in public awareness, coupled with advancements in scientific understanding, offers hope for more effective litigation.
As these lawsuits forge ahead, they have the potential to drive lasting change. They are further establishing new standards for safeguarding water resources and ensuring that the fundamental human right to clean and safe water is upheld.