A company that makes fire-fighting foam containing so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS reached a $17.5 million settlement on Thursday with northern Wisconsin residents over contamination from the chemicals.
The residents’ class-action lawsuit accused Tyco Fire Products and three other companies of making and testing fire-fighting foam containing PFAS at a center in Marinette, which then leached into private wells and properties in nearby Peshtigo.
PFAS are man-made chemicals that don’t break down easily in the environment. They have been linked to cancer, liver disease and reproductive-health troubles. The two Peshtigo residents who first filed the lawsuit in 2018 asked for compensation for their exposure to water and soil contamination and related health risks.
Under the proposed agreement, $15 million of the settlement will pay for property damage and other claims from class members. The remaining $2.5 million will be allocated to residents who have testicular cancer, kidney cancer, pregnancy-induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis or thyroid disease.
Court documents said Tyco and the other defendants in the case have already agreed to provide bottled water and point-of-entry treatment systems for homes with contaminated wells. The companies are also working to connect homes to a permanent supply of clean, safe drinking water.
There are an estimated 300 properties in the affected area, and more than half have already had their homes tested for PFAS. The chemicals were found in some of the tests but not in most, according to the settlement.
Before the agreement can take effect, Judge Richard Gergel of the U.S. District Court of South Carolina will have to sign off on it. He’s overseeing a number of lawsuits nationwide involving PFAS contamination.
Tyco did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement. Katie McGinty, a Tyco spokesperson, said the agreement “expresses our desire to resolve this litigation so that we can focus on the permanent solutions we have identified to get rid of the PFAS.”
She said the settlement doesn’t affect or change the company’s commitment to paying for a new waterline to permanently provide clean drinking water to affected Peshtigo residents. Johnson Controls International, the parent company of Tyco, set aside $140 million in 2019 to clean up the pollutants in Marinette.
Last month, a group of more than 20 state agencies released a report with recommendations for PFAS cleanup throughout the state. The chemicals have been detected in more than 40 places in Wisconsin.
Among other things, the recommendations call for establishing PFAS standards for soil, groundwater and other environments; reducing the use of the chemicals; developing new ways to identify contamination; and streamlining ways to deliver safe drinking water. Follow @TDR_WLJDan