Kalispel Tribe, Northern Quest file suit against 3M, Tyco Fire Products
Last updated 4/5/2020 at 12:12pm
AIRWAY HEIGHTS --The Kalispel Tribe of Indians, its economic authority and the Northern Quest Resort & Casino have filed a $21.27 million lawsuit against companies including 3M and Tyco Fire Products along with the United States government over chemicals used in firefighting foam that have contaminated drinking water sources in Airway Heights, including tribal lands.
The lawsuit filed Monday, March 30, in federal court in Washington joins other lawsuits around the country dealing with alleged harmful effects of polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as PFAS, used in firefighting foam and other products. Fairchild Air Force Base is reported to have used firefighting foam containing PFAS and PFOS, perfluorooctanoate, in its operations.
The chemicals were discovered in Airway Heights wells, including city wells, in 2016, and the Kalispel Tribe was notified of the contamination in 2017 by the city and Air Force officials, according to the lawsuit.
According to Cheney Free Press reports, the Air Force tested 368 wells through November 2018, of which 86 were found to have contamination levels for the chemicals above the federal Environmental Protection Agency's official limit of 70 parts per trillion. In May 2017, Airway Heights' three city wells were tested and found to have concentrations of PFAS and PFOA of 1,400 -- 1,500 parts per trillion.
In May 2019 the city sent a letter to the Air Force and the Department of Defense demanding they pay $47 million in damages as a result of the 2017 contamination to the city's water supply. The city has subsequently had to buy its water from the city of Spokane.
At least three other lawsuits have been filed involving over 100 individuals affected by the contamination.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.