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Gov. Evers administration files lawsuit against chemical companies over PFAS contamination

Lawsuit seeks to recover cost of remediation, testing for communities across the state

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Gov. Tony Evers announces PFAS lawsuit
Gov. Tony Evers announces a new lawsuit filed against chemical companies in Wisconsin and across the country for their use of PFAS during a press conference at the F.J. Robers Library on French Island on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Hope Kirwan/WPR

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration is suing three Wisconsin manufacturers and 15 other chemical companies over their use of PFAS, which the state claims has led to contamination of water and natural resources across Wisconsin.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court, alleges the companies knew that the intended use of their products would negatively affect public health and the environment. It claims the state and taxpayers will need to spend billions of dollars to remediate the contamination and that “no corner of the State has been left untouched.”

The lawsuit seeks to recover all costs associated with PFAS remediation, along with the cost of testing for the contaminant in communities that haven’t done so. It also seeks damages for loss of use and for damaging natural resources.

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Evers and state Attorney General Josh Kaul announced the suit Wednesday morning at a press conference on French Island, where hundreds of residents have been relying on bottled water for over a year because their private wells are contaminated with PFAS.

A Culligan jug has a homemade sign that says
Mary Wetterling named the water dispenser at her French Island, Wis., home “Aqua Maria.” Angela Major/WPR

“Wisconsinites should not have to foot the bill for polluters who should have known that what they were doing was wrong all along. That’s why we are demanding that the polluters who are responsible should have to pay for their reckless and reprehensible conduct,” Evers said during the event.

Evers said the lawsuit is about accountability for the chemical companies.

Lee Donahue is on the Board of Supervisors for the Town of Campbell, which makes up much of French Island. She said the lawsuit will help “turn off the flow” of PFAS in her community and across the state.

“Unless we turn off the flow, we are going to be caught in a never-ending cycle of trying to remediate what never should have leaked into our soil or groundwater to begin with,” Donahue said.

Kaul said during the press conference that the state hopes to use the lawsuit to force the chemical companies to help provide safe drinking water for the affected communities and ultimately pay for the efforts needed to fix the problem.

“In the meantime, though, it’s critical that our Legislature and that our federal government take action to immediately address this problem because the reality is that lawsuits take time and this will take a while to play out,” he said.

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