PORLTLAND, Maine — Maine’s attorney general is suing manufacturers of so-called forever chemicals that have contaminated farms and wells, contending they knew about the toxicity decades ago but concealed the information from the public.
Two lawsuits targeting 3M, DuPont and others seek to recover costs to investigate, mitigate and monitor contamination.
Attorney General Aaron Frey said Wednesday the state is working overtime to identify and deal with contamination.
“The defendant manufacturers have willfully introduced toxic chemicals into Maine’s environment in pursuit of profit for shareholders,” he said in a statement. “Maine citizens and the state are left to manage the harm these chemicals cause.”
Maine joins other states suing over contamination caused by the chemicals used since the 1940s in nonstick frying pans, food packaging, stain-resistant rugs, water-repellent fabrics and other consumer goods.
A DuPont spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on litigation but believes “these complaints are without merit.”
3M, which intends to end manufacturing of PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, by 2025, said it “acted responsibly” regarding products containing the toxic chemical, including a type of firefighting foam created to help the military douse flames, “and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”
In Maine, environmental officials have detected high levels of PFAS in bodies of water, wells and even in some wildlife like deer. And there has been large-scale contamination of farms where sludge was spread, causing PFAS contamination.
Regulators have come to understand that the chemicals, which don’t break down in the environment, are dangerous even at low levels. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first federal limits on forever chemicals in drinking water, limiting them to the lowest level that tests can detect.
A Maine law from last year requires manufacturers to report their use of chemicals and phase them out by 2030. The state also committed millions of dollars to test, manage and respond to PFAS contamination.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, herself a former attorney general, applauded the lawsuits and said the companies must be held to account “in the face of this recklessness.” The lawsuits were filed in Superior Court in Portland.
Associated Press writer Patrick Whittle in Portland contributed to this story.