A Fairfield man on Friday filed a class action lawsuit against Sappi North America for high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds known as PFASs found in wells in Somerset County and other locations.
Nathan Saunders filed the lawsuit through attorney Brian Mahany in the Somerset County Supreme Court in Skowhegan.
The lawsuit alleges that Sappis Somerset Mill in Skowhegan is the source of the PFAS known as “chemicals forever”.
In particular, the lawsuit alleges that the PFAS comes from biosolids from the mill’s sewage treatment plant. According to the lawsuit, the biosolids were distributed in the form of mud.
“I think the damage will run into tens of millions of dollars,” said Mahany, who is a Maine lawyer but runs a national practice, in a phone interview on Sunday evening. “There are so many homeowners who are affected and so many homeowners who have elevated levels of PFAS in their water.”
Sappi North America officials did not respond to an email requesting comment on Sunday evening.
The lawsuit seeks damages “in an amount yet to be determined”. It also seeks coverage for property damage, expenses, property damage, loss of use and enjoyment of property, depreciation of property, costs of long-term medical surveillance, and other problems.
The lawsuit is a public document and “open to anyone in Somerset County,” Mahany said.
“The actual and significant exposure of the plaintiff and class members to these dangerous PFAS levels is the direct and immediate result of the willful, willful, willful, reckless or negligent acts or omissions of the defendants in connection with the use, emission, discharge, disposal, Distribution and spraying of PFAS across Somerset County, ”the lawsuit reads.
“As a direct and immediate result, the plaintiff and class members are at risk of developing cancer and other diseases, leading to their current medical need for periodic diagnostic medical examinations.”
Introduced in the 1940s, PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals that are widely used in household products because of their resistance to water, grease, and stains.
The nickname “chemicals forever” comes from the strong structure of PFAS, which does not degrade easily in the environment or in the human body.
Exposure to the chemicals can lead to health problems, including increased cholesterol, thyroid disease, liver and kidney damage, adverse effects on fertility, and low birth weight, according to studies. Some studies have linked PFAS to an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
The state of Maine began investigating PFAS for contamination related to Fairfield wells during retail milk trials in February 2020.
Since then, the State Environmental Protection Agency has found 29 wells in Fairfield with PFOA and PFOS grades in excess of the EPA’s 70 parts per trillion limit.
The lawsuit alleges that Sappi knew the layoff had been going on for decades and should have been aware of the dangers.
Saunders filed the lawsuit under the lawsuit individually and on behalf of others with similar experience.
On January 13, the Saunders Well was found to be contaminated with PFAS at 12,910 parts per trillion.
Saunders was unavailable for comment on Sunday night.
“The class action lawsuit is aimed at all residents whose water is affected or who have PFAS from any source in their body,” Mahany said.
Mahany said he will also file individual lawsuits on behalf of people whose health was allegedly affected by the chemicals. Mahany said two people have so far been identified who have lost their kidneys as a result of this problem.
“I keep my fingers crossed that there aren’t hundreds of people out there who are having tragic health effects,” Mahany said. “We think this is happening in many other churches.”
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