On Tuesday February 25th, the National Rural Water Association filed a federal class action lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers. NRWA took this action for a simple reason: their rural water and wastewater systems are not responsible for manufacturing or introducing these man-made chemical compounds into communities and environments. They should not have to bear the burden for the costs of testing, treatment and remediation and then having to pass these significant costs on to their customers. Customers who include the more vulnerable populations such as the elderly, disabled, and low-income families who are already struggling with limited financial resources.
NRWA is a non-profit utility membership association representing 31,000 rural and small community rural water and wastewater utilities. NRWA is comprised of 49 state affiliates representing all 50 states because Rhode Island and Connecticut are combined as one. Its rural utility operations specialist board members and local leaders are mission driven: a mission of providing safe, clean and affordable water and wastewater services to their customers.
Therefore, after a thorough review of the current and potential impact to our members and the rural & small populations they serve, the National Rural Water Association Board of Directors determined NRWA’s membership needs to be represented in any legal settlement that may be forthcoming.
This lawsuit is a first for the National Rural Water Association. There are 49,731 community water supplies in the nation; 91% serve less than 10,000 population and 54% serve less than 500 population. These are not the type of entities looking to file a lawsuit, but Sam Wade, CEO of the NRWA points out, “these smaller communities lack the resources to participate individually and hold those accountable for the damages they have caused. Representing the membership in any settlement is an obligation of the association.”
These drinking water and wastewater utilities are the foundation for public health, environmental protection and for the economy. Rural America is where our food, energy, and natural resources come from and for impacted communities, their reputations are at stake as their missions are being comprised. The United States is one of a very few countries, that where upon entry, you are not warned about drinking the water.
Contamination of our nation’s water supplies from known hazardous chemicals is not acceptable in any way, shape, form or fashion. A clear message has been sent with this lawsuit: the nation’s small utilities will no longer sit idly by as victims with the burden of paying for the testing, treatment and remediation of known hazardous chemical contamination placed on the backs of the citizens they serve.
Systems impacted or that may be potentially impacted are strongly encouraged to register at https://nrwa.org/initiatives/pfas/ for more information or to contact the legal team:
Paul Napoli, of Counsel