City files suit against firefighting foam manufacturers

WESTFIELD—The city of Westfield has filed a lawsuit against manufacturers of firefighting foam that is alleged to be related to the contamination of water in the city.

The lawsuit, according to a press release from Mayor Brian Sullivan’s office, has been filed at the US District Court and is against three manufacturers of firefighting foam used by the Air National Guard at Barnes Air National Guard Base: 3M Company, Chemguard, Inc., and Tyco Fire Products L.P. According to City Solicitor Sue Phillips, the city is “looking to be made whole” with the lawsuit.

“I want the citizens to understand that we are doing everything we can on our end,” Sullivan said. “We have spent the last year-plus gathering data and information in regards to putting this lawsuit together.”

According to the press release, the city’s complaint includes that “the foam sold by the defendant manufacturers was used for decades by the Air National Guard at Barnes Air National Guard Base” and that “the defendant manufacturers knew or should have known that the chemicals are persistent when released into the environment and harmful.”

Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan (WNG file photo)

Phillips said that it is early in the process and that the city is “still assessing what our damages are.”

According to the press release, the complaint notes that usage of the “defendants’ products at Barnes Air National Guard Base and Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport has forced the City of Westfield to incur substantial expense to provide clean, safe drinking water to its residents.”

According to Sullivan, the city interviewed several law firms for this and chose Kennedy & Madonna, LLP for this lawsuit due to “their grand experience in this line of litigation.”

The city has had two public water wells offline since December 2015, after it was found that they had levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), specifically PFOA and PFOS, that were above a lifetime advisory limit given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). PFOA and PFOS were also listed in the lawsuit, and it was noted that these may result in health effects.

Since then, the city, as well as the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Air National Guard, have been taking part in investigating various parts of the contamination, including source and spread.

A resident-led group known as the Westfield Residents Advocating For Themselves (WRAFT) has also come to existence in the wake of the contamination, with their efforts including petitioning for blood testing for residents who may have been affected by the contamination.

The city has also been in the process of installing granular-activated carbon (GAC) filtration-based water treatment to treat the issue of contamination.

Sullivan added that the city’s “ultimate goal has always been clean drinking water for the residents of Westfield.”

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