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KGUN 9 Tucson News

AZ sues chem companies over “forever chemicals” water pollution

By Craig Smith,


Arizona is suing a long list of chemical companies over dangerous, long-lasting chemicals in our groundwater. It’s a category of chemicals called PFAS . A southside neighborhood already had a long battle against another chemical. Now activists are pleased to see Attorney General taking on PFAS.

We are in Herrera Park, named after Manny Herrera who led the southside in battles against a dangerous chemical called TCE. Now people here are wondering if PFAS were also part of their health problems.

“Shame on them. Because he knew very well what they were producing. I mean, they have the top notch chemists in the world producing these products.”

Robert Jaramillo says if you grew up on Tucson’s southside, you knew people with serious health problems.

"You know myself, I've had health issues. My siblings have had health issues my parents had—it goes back generationally to your grandparents as well,” says Jaramillo.

Now he wonders if some of those problems were unrecognized contamination from PFAS. It was common in firefighting foam used at Tucson International and Davis Monthan—the same places that were the source of TCE, a powerful cleaning solvent blamed for health problems. Southside residents fought and won a lawsuit over damages from TCE.

Now Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is suing a long list of companies that made PFAS. Her lawsuit says PFAS is a threat to Arizona and the people in it.

The suit says it part:

For example, PFOS and PFOA are highly mobile and persistent in the environment and they are toxic at extremely low levels.

Further they bioaccumulate and biomagnify up the food chain.

Mayes' lawsuit says companies suspected a PFAS health risks as early as the 1960s and had confirmed them by the 1980s.

Jaramillo says the city of Tucson has done a good job keeping PFAS out of our drinking water but says PFAS has interfered with processes that help clean TCE.

Part of the Attorney General’s goal is to recover money governments pay to keep us safe from PFAS. Tucson Water estimates it’s paid about $50 million to do that so far.

3M is one of the largest companies being sued. It says, “3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS - including AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) - and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”

There are 30 companies and subsidiaries being sued in all. As of late afternoon Tuesday, only 3M and Raytheon responded. Raytheon declined to comment.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9 . With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter .

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