City of Eau Claire files lawsuit in Eau Claire County against PFAS manufacturers

Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 11:28 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Years after the discovery of PFAS, or “forever chemicals, in Eau Claire’s water supply, city officials are working to hold manufacturers responsible.

The City of Eau Claire announced on Monday that it is suing PFAS manufacturers in an effort to acquire more funds for PFAS removal efforts.

In a press release, city officials said it could cost more than $20 million to rid the water supply of the forever chemicals.

At least a million dollars is going towards projects like building a PFAS removal facility just behind the city well on Riverview Drive.

Ted Warpinski is an attorney the city hired to help with getting money from companies deemed responsible for manufacturing the harmful chemicals.

“That kind of money isn’t just sitting around. So, you know, it’s a matter of who’s responsible for it and how you best protect the city and its interests in getting as much recovery as you can,” said Warpinski from Halling & Cayo S.C. based out of Milwaukee.

Warpinski helped file the lawsuit in Eau Claire County circuit court. He has decades of experience with environmental litigation. He believes PFAS manufacturers have harmed many communities across the country.

“But they are a necessary player for a comprehensive solution that may come from multiple sources before it’s all over with,” said Warpinski.

Reaching that solution is something Dr. Sarah Yang with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said should come sooner than later.

She is an expert on PFAS and its effects on human health. She said while chronic conditions connected to prolonged exposure of PFAS is known, there is still so much to learn about the class of chemicals that continues to expand.

“We think that 4 to 5000 or more chemicals in that class and we really only have a grasp on like a handful,” said Dr. Yang.

For community services director Lane Berg, this lawsuit comes down to not burdening affected water utility customers any further.

“Key things to remember are, you know, we didn’t we didn’t create this problem. And we don’t think it’s fair to pass that cost of people’s removal on to our customers. It would be a significant increase to water water bills,” said Berg. “We’re looking at every avenue we can so that we don’t have to pass these costs on to our ratepayers.”

“Could be a long road, but it’s just as you got to start you got to take the first step,” said Warpinski.

Aside from the general blanket litigation on PFAS manufacturers, Warpinski said there are settlements with large companies like 3M still in the works.

Berg said 7 of the 16 city wells are inactive because of high PFAS levels, but wants to reassure customers that the active wells are below Wisconsin DNR regulation levels.

Officials are expected to break ground for the PFAS removal facility in early 2024.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The City of Eau Claire says it is suing PFAS manufacturers for contaminating City well water.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Eau Claire County Circuit Court.

The City claims PFAS chemicals have been detected on the City well fields property and in the well water that people in the city depend on for drinking water. The City also says they have had to shut down nearly half of its wells and expect PFAS to cause over $20 million in repairs.

Additional information is available on the City of Eau Claire’s website HERE.