The Ongoing Environmental Crisis in Fairfield, Maine and Beyond

PFAs, or Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are chemicals that have become major environmental concerns due to their introduction by manufacturers prioritizing profits over the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. Dubbed “forever chemicals” because of their persistent nature, these substances encompass over 4,000 unique molecules. Alarmingly, they’ve found their way into everyday items: from the non-stick Teflon pans in our kitchens to the water-resistant clothing we wear and even the packaging of our favorite fast foods. Manufacturers’ decisions to widely use them have left an indelible mark on our environment and health.

The wide-reaching implications of these chemicals are not just relegated to scientific theories or problems that individuals can ignore in their daily lives. PFAs and their effects have manifested tangibly in communities across the country, directly impacting residential property values, small businesses, land use, local economies, natural resources, and most importantly, the health of residents. Watts Law Firm LLP has taken a keen interest in one such case that underscores the gravity of the PFAs problem and demonstrates what communities can do when they band together to use the power of the law to enact necessary change.

PFAs’ far-reaching effects are demonstrated in Fairfield, Maine, where the local water supply has been severely compromised. This decimated residential and commercial property values, as the water supply and land cannot support crops or animals. Even more alarmingly, research highlights the numerous health risks associated with PFAs exposure, including cancer, liver ailments, fertility issues, thyroid imbalances, and increased asthma risks. What makes these chemicals especially concerning is their persistence: once they infiltrate the environment, they remain, essentially forever.

The Role of Big Corporations and The Forever Chemicals

While PFAs are utilized broadly across many industries, notable companies like 3M and DuPont have come under particular scrutiny for their production and use of these chemicals. Products such as Scotchguard, frequently applied to everyday items like paper plates, contain these non-biodegradable substances. Further, much of the contamination in communities stems from the use of older firefighting foam, especially on military bases and at airports. This foam contained particularly toxic forms of PFAS, namely PFOA and PFOS. Additionally, chemical manufacturing plants, situated in states initiating some of the lawsuits, produce PFAS for a vast array of products such as clothing, non-stick cookware, food packaging, and personal care items, further contributing to the contamination.

What is dangerous PFAS – Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances – and where is it found? PFAS are dangerous synthetic organofluorine chemical compounds

Not only do PFAs persist in the environment, but they also bioaccumulate, meaning they concentrate in living organisms over time. When these chemicals are consumed or inhaled, they can lead to a wide range of health issues. These include respiratory problems, intestinal complications, disruptions in hormone levels, weakened immune system responses, and developmental issues in infants and children. There’s also growing evidence to suggest a potential link between PFAs exposure and increased risks of certain cancers, thyroid disorders, and high cholesterol. The severity of their impact has reached a point where they’ve been linked to hazardous materials classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The accumulating research on PFAs’ health implications highlights the urgent need for responsible management and oversight.

Currently, there is a mounting pressure on authorities and industries to purify the water supply from this contaminant. In August of 2023, 3M agreed to a $10.3 billion settlement to end litigation in South Carolina for polluting the water supply with PFAs. This money will be used, in part, for those affected to have water filters installed and other remedial actions, but ongoing claims remain for illnesses and diseases suffered by individuals due to the contaminated drinking water. Moreover, while 3M has pledged to remove PFAs from their products by 2025, this does little to address the legacy of contamination already out there across the country. As these chemicals don’t naturally degrade, their existing presence in the environment remains a ticking time bomb.

The Devastating Impact of PFAs in Fairfield, Maine

Maine, especially areas like Fairfield, has unfortunately become a significant focal point in this crisis. Many residents have discovered that the alarming levels of PFAs contamination have not only jeopardized their health but have also severely devalued their properties. Land once fertile and promising for agriculture now stands compromised, unsuitable for cropping or animal husbandry. This has, in turn, drastically decreased its overall value. Shockingly, certain private wells in Fairfield have shown PFAS levels almost a thousand times higher than Maine’s acceptable drinking water levels, presenting grave health risks, including various types of cancer.

Central to the Fairfield story is the contamination from biosolids, or residuals from paper production companies. When used as fertilizers on farmlands, these residuals have caused these harmful chemicals to infiltrate private wells for years. The lawsuit asserts over 12 paper mills and manufacturing entities, including major industry players like Sappi’s Somerset Mill and Pine Tree Waste Inc., are responsible for this contamination. The objective extends beyond financial compensation. Affected property owners are calling for essential medical monitoring to safeguard their health, yet it’s crucial to understand that while early detection can help manage and possibly mitigate the effects of a disease, it doesn’t compensate for the trauma and life-altering reality of being diagnosed with an illness due to PFAs exposure in the first place.

The environmental contamination that occurred in Maine is not alone in this predicament; in fact, this type of contamination may be prevalent in many states. Across the nation, industrial zones, areas in proximity to military bases, and other specific regions are also grappling with dangerously elevated PFAs levels. This nationwide contamination has widespread implications for both public health and economic well-being.

The mounting crisis of Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) contamination has become an alarming testament to the challenges presented by unchecked environmental degradation and unregulated corporate practices. As these “forever chemicals” persist in the environment and the human body, communities like Fairfield bear witness to its devastating impacts, from health concerns to plummeting property values.

Seeking Accountability and the Future of PFAs

As champions of justice against PFAs contamination nationally, Watts Law Firm LLP is unwavering in its dedication to empowering those affected to have their voices heard and their stories told. In their ongoing investigations, Founding Attorney Mikal C. Watts drives home the need to identify these chemical suppliers to hold them accountable and ensure they reform their practices and products. Attorney Russ Abney underscores the detrimental cycle of waste generation leading to chemical leaching, emphasizing the need for proactive measures in addition to remedial efforts. By recognizing and naming these entities in legal filings, companies can be compelled to actively participate in cleanup efforts.

Our involvement isn’t just about individual compensations. By coming together, the affected residents are harnessing the power of the law to instigate systemic change. Their collective voice doesn’t just seek recompense; it pushes for broader initiatives, urging corporations to decontaminate water supplies and affected regions.

At Watts Law Firm LLP, our fight against PFAs contamination is reflective of our broader mission. We believe in empowering communities to demand more from corporations, ensuring they are held accountable for their actions. In the PFAs litigation, we see not just a case, but a movement, a testament to the transformative power of the law when wielded by a united community. In our Fairfield, Maine PFAs litigation, we are dedicated to assisting every individual client recover their specific damages for loss of property value and other damages. Our collective mission, however, is to also ensure these companies stop producing PFAS, stop contaminating the environment with PFAs already in their products, and to force the responsible companies to clean up the hazardous chemicals and waste they have dumped in our water supply. 

Your fight is our fight. These issues are not limited to Fairfield, Maine, as PFAs and their effects are felt nationally and globally. At the same time, we recognize that every individual client has a unique story. We’re here to ensure that you are heard, understood, and effectively represented as an individual case. Together, we’ll challenge the powerful, protect the innocent, and seek justice. The power of Watts Law Firm LLP stands firm: Empowering voices. Powering change.

Empower Your PFAs Claim

FAQs about PFAs and Environmental Contamination

What are PFAs and why are they known as “forever chemicals”?

PFAs, or Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a group of human-made chemicals used in many everyday products to make them resistant to water, stains, or heat. They’re dubbed “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily in the environment or the human body. This means that once they’re released, they can stick around for a very long time, potentially causing health and environmental problems.

What are the common household goods and products that may contain PFAs?

There are a number of categories of common household items, including but not limited to: 

  1. Non-stick Cookware: Many non-stick pans and pots use PFAs to achieve their non-stick properties, often associated with brands like Teflon.
  2. Water-Resistant Clothing: Some waterproof or water-resistant clothing, especially those for outdoor use, might contain PFAs.
  3. Stain-resistant Fabrics and Carpets: Fabrics treated to resist stains might use PFAs. This includes some carpets and upholstery.
  4. Cosmetics: Certain cosmetics, particularly those that are waterproof or resistant to smudging, might contain PFAs. This includes mascara, foundation, and other products.
  5. Food Packaging: Fast food containers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and other food wrappers might be treated with PFAs to make them resistant to grease and oil.
  6. Cleaning Products: Some cleaning products have been known to contain PFAs.
  7. Paints and Stains: Some kinds of paint and stain might be formulated with PFAs to make them more durable or resistant to environmental conditions.
  8. Firefighting Foam: AFFF, a type of firefighting foam, has been a significant source of PFAs contamination.
  9. Shoes: Some water-resistant shoes or boots might be treated with PFAs.
  10. Camping and Outdoor Gear: Tents, tarps, and other outdoor gear that are water-resistant might have PFAs.
  11. Contact Lenses: Some types of contact lenses have been made using PFAs due to their water and stain-resistant properties.
  12. Certain Home Goods: Items like water-repellent shower curtains might contain PFAs.

How do PFAs affect people’s health? 

PFAs, often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistent nature in both the environment and human body, have been linked to a range of health concerns. When PFAs contaminate water supplies or food sources, they can accumulate in the human body over time, further heightening the potential health risks. Some diseases and illnesses that may be linked to PFA exposure include but are not limited to: 

  1. Kidney cancer
  2. Testicular cancer
  3. High cholesterol
  4. Liver disease or increased liver enzymes
  5. Thyroid disease and other endocrine disruption
  6. Decreased vaccine response in children
  7. Low birth weight in newborns
  8. Fertility issues and disruptions in natural human reproductive hormones
  9. Developmental effects in infants and children, such as lowered IQ
  10. Elevated blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women
  11. Asthma
  12. Immune system suppression
  13. Potential links to obesity and diabetes

Who may be eligible to join or file a lawsuit for property damage, loss of value, illness or disease due to PFA contamination?

Individuals who believe they’ve been exposed to PFAs and have experienced health complications or diseases as a result may be eligible. Additionally, property owners who suspect that their property’s value has declined due to PFAs contamination in the water supply or environment could also qualify. If you fall into any of these categories or believe you’ve been adversely affected by PFAs, it’s crucial to seek more information and explore your potential legal rights. We encourage you to contact us for guidance and assistance.

Mass tort litigation offers a platform for individuals to unite, amplifying their collective voice against powerful entities responsible for the harm. If you’ve felt the impact of PFAs, don’t suffer in silence; joining a mass tort action can be a powerful way to reclaim your rights and power impactful change. 

Disclaimer: This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Mikal Watts

Written on behalf of Mikal Watts, and reviewed by Watts Law Firm LLP

Mikal C. Watts is Board-Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a Martindale-Hubbel AV Rated Lawyer.