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What Does a Recent PFAS Settlement Mean for the Cape Fear Area?


June 15, 2023

Three PFAS manufacturers will pay $1.185 billion to water utilities around the country — but the Cape Fear region is excluded.

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While the settlement covers a lot of municipal and county utilities, it specifically excludes the Cape Fear River Basin because of ongoing local litigation.

Ted Leopold is a senior partner at Cohen Milstein, the legal firm representing Cape Fear residents in another lawsuit. He said, “there’ll be a fund there to pay for essentially, fixing or reconstructing those water utilities so that they can hopefully provide clean water to its customers.”

Because of the nature of the settlement, other utilities that aren’t currently involved can petition to have their utilities tested, and then may have access to that $1.185 billion fund.

“Certainly, you know, this is going to be very expensive. Cape Fear water utility has estimated somewhere in the range of $40 to $60 million to correct its facility,” Leopold said, referring to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA). “So if you can imagine all the water utilities around the country, there’s going to be a significant number. So the settlement number may pale in comparison to what the actual damage number may be.”

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“The settlement doesn’t affect the contamination that occurs in the soil, groundwater, property damage and things of that sort,” he said. “This is only related to the water utilities around the country.”

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As for the Cape Fear case, Cohen Milstein is representing Cape Fear residents against Dupont and Chemours in a class action lawsuit dating back to 2018. The class action lawsuit seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief for physical injury, property damage and reduced property values, and the cost of filtering contaminated water and air in five Cape Fear counties.

Leopold says the recent settlement has positive implications for the other cases, like the case CFPUA has against Chemours.

“I think that’s the biggest result is the acknowledgment of the companies that have perpetrated these contaminations and caused people’s properties and health to be put at risk,” he said. “It’s an acknowledgment that, you know, these are serious chemicals that can cause harm both the property and to individuals. And, you know, they’re certainly paying a lot of money towards fixing the problem.”

As for a timeline on a result for that class action suit, Leopold said it’s unpredictable. “We’ve been waiting for some time. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came tomorrow, next week, or sometime this summer.”

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