Statement from NRWA CEO Matt Holmes
Jun 29, 2023
To All Rural Water Members,
I am writing to you today to provide critical information for community water systems concerned with PFAS contamination. Last week, chemical giant 3M announced a historic $12.5 billion settlement with water utilities in the ongoing litigation originated by NRWA and our legal firm Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. While it's true that others have also been involved, make no mistake - NRWA has been in the lead. Your Board of Directors approved hiring Paul Napoli and his team prior to the filing of the lawsuit now being overseen in the U.S. District Court in South Carolina. Paul serves as the court-appointed Co-Lead Counsel for the Plaintiff's and is leading the national settlement negotiating team.
NRWA's Board of Directors voted unanimously for this unprecedented step for one simple reason – they knew that small communities would not be able to afford legal representation on their own and would be forced to shoulder the financial burden of removing these toxic chemicals from their drinking water. The goal was to provide an opportunity for our members to benefit equally from any settlement or judgement in the case by funding water treatment and testing.
The $12.5 billion class settlement still must be approved by Judge Richard M. Gergel and comes on the heels of a $1.185 billion settlement with DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva announced just a few weeks ago. Paul has been directly involved in every step of the case and these settlements. This is a complicated and dynamic situation – here's the most important items to consider right now:
- Systems can still join the PFAS lawsuit. There is no cost to register, and you can always opt out of any settlement or judgement prior to accepting.
- Any monies paid to systems will be to compensate for additional treatment and testing costs. 3M's settlement is designed to "support PFAS remediation for public water suppliers that detect PFAS at any level or may do so in the future."
- It is crucial for the litigation that systems test all water sources for all 29 UCMR 5 chemicals, including raw water. Paul Napoli's team can guide you through this process.
- Right now, this litigation is limited to drinking water systems, but we all know that wastewater systems have as much or more exposure to PFAS. The next effort will be to seek the same relief for wastewater systems.
Finally, I recommend any water systems that are concerned with PFAS contamination join the lawsuit as soon as possible using NRWA's trusted partner Napoli Shkolnik, a firm with a successful history winning financial relief for water utilities. There is strength in numbers, and there are many benefits that come from uniting our efforts. That's the power of association! NRWA is committed to continuing to fight for small and rural communities across the Nation. It is a privilege to represent the men and women managing America's most essential critical infrastructure sector.
Join the LawsuitJoining the lawsuit is simple, just complete this form on Napoli's website. Napoli's trusted team members will walk you through the process and be available to answer questions you might have.
BackgroundNRWA's leadership had the foresight to see and understand that PFAS, including the monitoring of levels, treatment, and remediation costs, would be a major issue for rural water and wastewater utilities. Early in 2018, NRWA partnered with Napoli Shkolnik PLLC to file a lawsuit on behalf of its members against the manufacturers of PFAS, which include 3M Co., Tyco Fire Products L.P., National Foam, Inc., Buckeye Fire Protection, Chemguard, E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company ("DuPont") and The Chemours Company.
The court set a date for trial for June 5, 2023. In the time between the initial filing of the litigation and the set court date, a few key events have taken place. The first being EPA's announcement on March 14, 2023, proposing a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) to establish Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for six PFAS in drinking water. This proposed rule would require public water systems to monitor for these PFAS, notify the public of these levels of PFAS, and reduce the levels of these PFAS in drinking water if they exceed 4 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS. For PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX chemicals, the EPA proposed a limit for a mix of the chemicals. As part of the public comment period, NRWA's Regulatory Committee drafted and provided comments on behalf of the over 31,000 utility members who would be affected by this proposed rule.
The next key announcement was when Kidde Fenwal, a well-known manufacturer of fire protection and suppression systems, filed for bankruptcy. Kidde Fenwal has been associated with the use and disposal PFAS, resulting in significant contamination to water supplies across the U.S., meaning many water systems may have a legitimate claim against Kidde Fenwal for contributing to this situation. The timeline for resolving claims against Kidde Fenwal can vary significantly. Factors such as the complexity of the case, the number of parties involved, and the progress of the bankruptcy proceedings all influence the timeframe. NRWA will keep its members abreast of any updates.
Two most recent and most substantial announcements are the two settlements, one from 3M for $12.5 billion that was announced on June 22, 2023, and the other from DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva for nearly $1.2 billion announced on June 2, 2023. Napoli Shkolnik Law Firm, NRWA's official partner, was a key player in both settlements, which are a major win for water systems across the U.S.
DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva have released a Q&A document as part of their press release announcing their settlement. This document discusses what is included and excluded for the settlement, when it will be finalized, timing of funds distribution, among other items.
While 3M, DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva have announced settlements, there are still manufacturers in the litigation who have yet to settle. Every public drinking water system who has been affected by PFAS deserves to be a part of the resulting settlements so they may begin the long road to resolving the associated issues.