The Mad River flows past the city of Dayton’s Ottawa water treatment plant on the east side of Dayton. Recent tests indicate that polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) were still present and in increasing numbers in the drinking water even after some contaminated wells were shut down last year. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Dayton suing firefighting foam makers after water safety worries

The city of Dayton will sue the makers of firefighting foam in the wake of chemicals found in the water systems here and in other cities around the country.

City officials announced the lawsuit today in an afternoon press conference.

“It is our duty to protect the public health, safety and welfare and environment of our residents and the surrounding region,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said.

The defendants named in the suit are 3M Company, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., Buckeye Fire Equipment Company, Chemguard Inc., Tyco Fire Products L.P., and National Foam Inc.

MORE: New study lowers chemical water safety standards to Dayton’s current levels

About 1,500 drinking water systems across the country serving roughly 110 million Americans may be contaminated by PFAS, formally known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, according to a recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group. About 400,000 people in the area get their drinking water from Dayton wells either through the city’s distribution system or one operated by Montgomery County.

“Right now, the city of Dayton is on the hook for the cost of making sure these chemicals do not endanger our water supplies,” Whaley said.

The chemicals are toxic and they move easily through the soil and in the groundwater.

“They can pose serious risks to health and human safety,” Whaley said.

The companies have been aware of the potential dangers for decades, the mayor said.

Congress on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation that directs the Federal Aviation Administration to allow airports to use firefighting foam free of “PFAS” (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances).

While firefighting foam is believed to be the source of PFAS in Dayton’s water, precisely where the contamination originated is yet unknown. The compounds were both used during training at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Dayton Fire Training Center on McFadden Avenue

Water danger: Wright-Patt among many military bases where chemicals detected

Regulators have pushed both the city of Dayton and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base about the chemicals both once used as a fire retardant, and the Ohio EPA has directed the Air Force to take further steps to mitigate any threat.

PFAS showed up in March at Dayton’s Ottawa Water Treatment Plant, the first time the compounds — currently believed to be safe when below 70 ppt for lifetime exposure — were detected in water after the treatment process. The chemicals had been detected before in monitoring wells, prompting the shutdown of some production wells.

April testing showed treated water bound for customers from the Ottawa Water Treatment Plant measured 12.5 ppt (parts per trillion) for PFAS in March and 7 ppt in April, leading Dayton and Montgomery County to both send out notices to customers.

The chemicals continue to be detected, but officials maintain the water remains safe to drink.

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