Raoul Seeks to Recover Damages Specific to Fire Suppressing Foam
Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a lawsuit against multiple companies that manufacture per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – also known as “forever chemicals” – used in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). AFFF is a fire suppressing foam used to extinguish flammable liquid fires from gasoline, oil, jet fuel and other chemicals often used at industrial facilities, military bases, airports and by fire departments.
This is Raoul’s latest lawsuit over the impact of forever chemicals in Illinois and the first suit he has filed to specifically address AFFF contamination caused by manufacturers. In a March 2022 lawsuit, he alleged 3M’s improper handling of PFAS resulted in ongoing contamination at and around its facility in Cordova, Illinois. In a January 2023 lawsuit, he alleged that 14 PFAS manufacturers sold PFAS-containing products in Illinois as consumer goods and for use in industrial processes that caused PFAS contamination from these non-AFFF sources throughout the state.
“For years, manufacturers have been aware of the dangers of PFAS and AFFF yet still promote the chemicals as being safe to use. As a result, these ‘forever chemicals’ have contaminated water supplies across Illinois,” Raoul said. “Manufacturers must be held accountable for the widespread contamination to our natural resources, as we take an important step with this lawsuit to further protect our environment and public health.”
PFAS, including those PFAS contained in AFFF, are human-made, synthetic chemicals that do not exist naturally in the environment. PFAS are highly toxic to humans and animals and extremely resistant to degradation in the environment, which is why they are known as “forever chemicals.” PFAS contaminants may be linked to serious adverse health effects in humans, including increased serum cholesterol, immune dysregulation, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and kidney and testicular cancers. Exposure to certain types of PFAS is also associated with low birth weight in babies, suppressed immune system response, dyslipidemia, impaired kidney function and delayed onset of menstruation. Although there are no regulatory limits for PFAS, Illinois EPA (IEPA) has established health advisories and health-based guidance levels and recently proposed groundwater quality standards.
Raoul’s lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that AFFF manufacturers are aware their products were dangerous to human health and the environment, yet they have continued to manufacture AFFF while misleading their customers, the government and the public about AFFF’s toxic properties. The lawsuit also alleges this caused widespread contamination and damages to Illinois’ natural resources from AFFF releases into the environment, resulting in concentrations that exceed Illinois Health Advisories for PFAS contaminants from AFFF.
Raoul’s complaint builds on the IEPA’s efforts to sample drinking water supplies throughout Illinois to identify those affected by PFAS contamination. The IEPA sampled drinking water at community water supplies across Illinois and detected PFAS at 149 of them. The Attorney General’s lawsuit alleges that, based on the prevalence of the use of AFFF at military installations, airports, and firefighting locations throughout Illinois, AFFF has also contaminated groundwater and surface water not used for drinking water across Illinois.
“PFAS contamination is well documented in Illinois’ environment, including in groundwater and drinking water,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim. “We continue our support of Attorney General Raoul’s office in his efforts to identify responsible parties and support the remediation of the contamination found in many Illinois communities.”
Raoul’s lawsuit seeks to recover Illinois’ costs and damages from the AFFF contamination. More specifically, it seeks to recover natural resource damages and other monetary damages necessary for state officials to continue identifying, monitoring and remediating AFFF contamination of Illinois’ environment, as well as restoration of natural resources.
Division Chief Matthew Dunn, Bureau Chief Stephen Sylvester, Supervising Attorney Ellen O’Laughlin and Senior Assistant Attorney General Karen Howard are handling the case for Raoul’s Environmental Bureau. In addition, attorneys representing DiCello Levitt LLC, Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL, and Fields Han & Cunniff, PLLC will co-prosecute the case as special assistant attorneys general.