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NJ Sues Federal Government Over Polluted Drinking Water at Military Base

The state of New Jersey has recently filed a lawsuit against the federal government for drinking water contamination that was allegedly caused by firefighting foam used on military bases across New Jersey.

NJ Attorney General and NJDEP Announce Lawsuit

On January 14, 2021, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced that they were filing a lawsuit against the federal government. The complaint alleges that the military’s use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) during firefighting on military bases throughout New Jersey have caused environmental contamination of drinking water sources, with contamination levels exceeding New Jersey state regulations for safe levels in drinking water. AFFF contains toxic chemicals such as perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), two types of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

Due to PFAS’s resistance to breaking down naturally, these chemicals can leach into the environment and into water supplies, where they can accumulate in human bodies as contaminated water or food is consumed, causing diseases such as cancer or immune system disorders.

The state’s complaint focuses on the use of AFFF at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, while also identifying the military installations of Naval Weapons Station Earle and the Naval Air Warfare Center as other sources of environmental contamination due to AFFF use. The complaint seeks to have the military investigate and remediate PFAS-contaminated water sources at and around military bases across New Jersey.

The federal government did not immediately respond to the announcement of New Jersey’s lawsuit.

Military Base Long Suspected of Environmental Contamination

For years, environmental investigators have identified Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst as a source of PFAS contamination. Groundwater testing at the base showed some of the highest PFAS contamination levels of any site in the country. Investigation by the DOD has found PFAS in groundwater at or near 651 military installations across the country. The state’s complaint particularly alleges that three private drinking water wells near the base have been found to be contaminated with detectable levels of PFAS.

While civilian firefighting has ceased the use of AFFF, the military continues to use the substances, although Congress has mandated that the military phase out AFFF use by 2024. 

New Jersey has previously gone after private corporations for environmental contamination caused by those companies’ use of PFAS materials and substances. The state has also brought environmental and legal actions against companies who produced AFFF, with those cases specifically citing environmental contamination at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Naval Weapons Station Earle, and the Naval Air Warfare Center, along with the Federal Aviation Administration Technical Center.

Other States Have Brought Suit Against the Military for Environmental Contamination

New Jersey’s lawsuit is not the first state lawsuit against the federal government for environmental contamination caused by military use of PFAS-containing materials and substances. New Mexico filed a similar lawsuit against the Air Force in 2019. Other cases relating to the military’s use of AFFF are being heard in the U.S. District Court in South Carolina, where New Jersey’s lawsuit has been filed, though the case may ultimately end up being transferred back to the District Court in New Jersey.

Contact a Red Bank Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Environmental Contamination Case in New Jersey

Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to environmental contamination in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Drazin and Warshaw, P.C. represent clients injured because of environmental contamination in Cookstown, Pemberton, North Hanover, New Egypt, Leonardo, Belford, Port Monmouth and throughout Monmouth County, Ocean County and Burlington County, New Jersey.  Call (732) 576-8860 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 25 Reckless Place, Red Bank, NJ 07701 as well as offices in Hazlet and Brick.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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