The Fairbanks city government announced Monday that it has filed a lawsuit against two companies whose products polluted groundwater around the city’s fire training center. 

The suit seeks at least $4.3 million from manufacturers to recoup costs the city has spent cleaning up the site and providing clean drinking water to neighbors whose water had high levels of contaminants known as PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

The lawsuit names as defendants the 3M Company and Tyco Fire Products, companies that made a firefighting foam called Aqueaus Film Forming Foam, which contained PFAS.

Fairbanks isn’t alone in suing PFAS manufacturers. The lawsuit is being consolidated with about 75 other cities and public water districts into a procedure called a multidistrict litigation, according to a Monday news release from the city. Pretrial proceedings will be before U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel in South Carolina, but if the Fairbanks case goes to trial, it will be held in Alaska, the city news release states. 

3M, the company formerly known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, is known to most consumers as the maker of Scotch tape. The company made the firefighting foam for more than 40 years. 

It has a market capitalization of more than $100 billion. Tyco Fire Products is based in Wisconsin. Tyco purchased Ansul Company, another firefighting foam manufacturer, in 1990.     

The city’s 20-page civil complaint alleges that 3M and Tyco sold and marketed firefighting foam despite knowing how it would be used for fire training and knowing the chemical was toxic. 

“3M and Tyco knew or should have known that PFAS are mobile and persistent when released into the environment and constitutes significant risks to groundwater, drinking water supplies and human health,” reads one part of the complaint.

The lawsuit further alleges that 3M “engaged in a campaign to distort scientific research concerning PFAS and to suppress research into the potential harms associated with PFAS.”

The references to 3M’s efforts to control scientific research about PFAS come from depositions in the state of Minnesota’s lawsuit against 3M, which the company settled last year for $850 million.  

The Fairbanks city government is one of several local landowners with PFAS-contaminated land from the use of firefighting foam. Others include Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base and the state government, which owns Fairbanks International Airport.  

Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors

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