On Tuesday, a trial over Minnesota's $5 billion lawsuit against manufacturer 3M Company—the biggest environmental lawsuit in state history—was set to begin with jury selection.
But on that very same day, the Maplewood-based manufacturer agreed to an $850 million settlement, finally putting an end to eight years of litigation over the water pollution case.
Perfluorinated chemicals, also known as PFASs or PFCs, are used to make everyday items—such as food wrappers, textiles, pots and pans—repel water and grease. But these chemicals have been linked to a host of health problems, including high cholesterol, hormone disruption and even kidney and testicular cancer.
Now, researchers at Harvard University found evidence that the environmentally persistent chemicals—found in the drinking water of more than six million Americans—may play a role in weight gain, especially for women.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Leslie Hsu Oh
Winter gear earned a bad rep in the early 2000s. Scientists discovered that the perfluorocarbon chemicals (PFCs) present in synthetic waterproofing materials were not only linked to cancer and infertility, but could also take more than four years to flush out of winter-coat-wearers' tissues. What's more, PFCs' persistent residues pose a grave threat to our waterways.
U.S. Air Force Accidentally Spills Massive Amounts of Highly Toxic Chemicals Into Colorado Sewer System
By Andrea Germanos
The U.S Air Force said Tuesday that a Colorado base had released roughly 150,000 gallons of water containing elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) into the Colorado Springs Utilities sewer system and a nearby creek.
Officials at the Peterson Air Force Base, located in Colorado Springs, said an investigation was underway into the discharge from a retention tank, which was discovered Oct. 12. during a routine inspection. The spill happened at some point last week, they said.
The Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, which discharged about 150,00 gallons of PFC-tainted into the local sewer system.Brian Bennett / Flickr
PFCs—found in firefighting foam used by the military—have been linked to adverse health effects including liver damage and development harm.
The Colorado Springs Utilities said the chemicals did not enter the drinking water system, but rather went directly to wastewater.
Utilities spokesperson Steve Berry said that no wastewater plant in the country is equipped to remove PFCs.
"We would not have been able to remove that chemical before it was discharged back into the environment from our effluent," the Denver Post quotes him as saying.
CBS News adds, "The tainted water passed through a wastewater treatment plant, but the plant isn't set up to remove PFCs, so they were still in the water when it was discharged into Fountain Creek, Berry said."
And that presents a potential problem for farmers like Jay Frost, whose land where organic crops are grown sits below the creek. His family uses the creek water for irrigation and he told local ABC affiliate KRDO that "If we were not able to sell any product from this farm, we would go broke."
"Someone will have to answer to this," he added.
The discharge of the chemical-laden water last week wouldn't be the first time Peterson Air Force Base is under scrutiny for water pollution in the state.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that "The base's use of the firefighting foam containing the chemical is a key suspect in the contamination of wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain that left thousands of residents scrambling for bottled water last summer after the chemical was found at levels that violated standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency."
Further, the Denver Post reports that the discharge "happened as the Air Force increasingly faces scrutiny as a source of groundwater contamination nationwide."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.