In a series of federal lawsuits filed over the past two weeks, residents neighboring active and former military bases in Colorado Springs and suburban Philadelphia have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of firefighting foam believed to have contaminated their drinking water supplies.
The most recent suit was filed last week by the Colorado Springs-based McDivitt Law Firm on behalf of nine plaintiffs claiming their elevated blood levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) stemmed from the use of firefighting foam at Peterson Air Force Base. The Air Force previously confirmed that elevated levels of PFCs found in the drinking water supply in several communities south of Colorado Springs — Security, Widefield, and Fountain — most likely resulted from the use of firefighting foam at Peterson.
The suit closely mirrors an earlier one filed by a Denver law firm on behalf of residents from those communities.
Seven residents living near two closed bases outside of Philadelphia — Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove and Naval Air Warfare Center — filed a similar suit earlier last month, reported the Ledger-Enquirer.
The plaintiffs allege the manufacturers should have known about the health and environmental risks posed by the chemicals in the foam. All of the suits seek class-action status.
“With this lawsuit, we are fighting to ensure that the companies who manufactured and marketed products containing these chemicals — and put their profits ahead of public health in the process — are brought to justice for their wrongdoing,” Robin Greenwald, who heads an environmental unit at New York-based Weitz & Luxenberg, said regarding the suit filed in Philadelphia.
The suit filed by McDivitt seeks punitive damages, and water testing and medical monitoring programs, reported the Colorado Springs Gazette.
One of the primary hurdles the plaintiffs will need to overcome is proving that contaminated drinking water harmed them.
“One of the biggest problems that comes up right away is causation,” Tom Metzloff, a professor at Duke Law School, told the Gazette. “These cases are often significantly fought over by experts.”
Because similar suits are being filed across the country, the federal courts may decide to combine them into a single case heard by a single judge, Metzloff said.