LaFayette council hears about forever chemical litigation

Published 9:30 am Friday, December 22, 2023

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Attorneys Shelby Yarbrough and Starr Culpepper spoke to the LaFayette City Council on Monday night. They presented their case to represent the city in litigation regarding PFAS, a forever chemical.

“PFAS [Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances] are widely used, long-lasting chemicals components of which break down very slowly over time,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“[PFAS] has been found in water as well as soil. So if you own a water source, or if you own a landfill then this litigation is applicable to you,”  said Culpepper.

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She goes on to say that PFAS are used to make cosmetics, water-soluble and non-stick materials, among many other things. Because forever chemicals like PFAS take so long to break down they are found almost everywhere, including food products, water sources, and Culpepper said they have even been found in Polar Bear blood. 

Being man-made, there are still many questions on the full effect of PFAS and other forever chemicals on humans and the environment. Although the EPA has found many studies linking PFAS in the environment to harmful health effects. 

“The issue that we have today is that the toxicology reports and the epidemiology reports have said that with this chemical there will be issues in our community,” Culpepper said. 

The legal team told the council that regulations will come into effect next year requiring municipalities to do testing and potentially “clean up the sources [of PFAS],” according to Culpepper. 

The regulations the teams referred to are a part of President Biden’s plan to combat PFAS pollution. Through the plan, there is a proposal to implement legally enforceable levels for six PFAS chemicals known to occur in drinking water. 

“If finalized, the proposed regulation will require public water systems to monitor for these chemicals. It will also require systems to notify the public and reduce PFAS contamination if levels exceed the proposed regulatory standards,” according to the EPA.

If the City of LaFayette chooses to join the litigation it would give them more options when it comes to funding this monitoring and testing effort.

“The joy of that is that we’re here to be that affirmative legal arm of the municipality, to go after these funds that are available already so that you can begin this process,” Culpepper explained.  

The council decided to look over the materials the legal team provided and go over the city’s water system before deciding to join the litigation. 

If the city decides to move forward, the legal team of Culpepper, Yarbourgh, as well as a firm in Washington D.C. that focuses on PFAS, will fund the litigation to its conclusion. Once the team gets the funding for PFAS testing and cleanup, a portion of that will go to the legal fees.