In the largest single-site natural resources damages and remediation case in state history, Solvay Specialty Polymers USA has agreed to pay $393 million in damages to address PFAS contamination in New Jersey, Attorney General Matt Platkin and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette announced Wednesday.
The settlement aims to ensure the remediation of contamination, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and compensate the public for natural resource damages in the vicinity of Solvay’s facility in West Deptford in Gloucester County.
PFAS substances — also called “forever chemicals” — are manmade substances desired for their ability to repel water and oil and contain fuel fires, and were commonly used to make products like Teflon and Scotchgard. Highly resistant to environmental degradation and known to accumulate in the human body, PFAS are associated with serious adverse health effects such as decreased vaccine response.
The first of its kind to address PFAS contamination in New Jersey, the proposed settlement provides financial commitments of nearly $393 million, including commitments by Solvay to:
- Pay for and implement comprehensive remedial activities at and in the vicinity of its West Deptford facility;
- Provide financial support for certain public water system upgrades necessary to remove PFAS from drinking water, which will be administered by the DEP;
- Further investigate and address certain PFAS impacts to public water systems and private potable drinking water wells in the vicinity;
- Compensate the public for natural resources injured by the discharge of hazardous substances.
Platkin said the settlement is payback for years of abuse.
“For years, corporations, including Solvay, have put financial gain over our clean drinking water and the health of millions of people,” he said. “They have blatantly ignored the dangers posed by the PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals that accumulate in our environment and in our bodies. New Jersey has pursued those who thought they could leave their mess to someone else to clean up.
“This settlement is a historic step that requires Solvay to finally take meaningful responsibility for PFAS and other contamination at their site. Today, we send a clear message to any corporation that exposes our New Jersey communities to PFAS toxins or injures our natural resources with any hazardous substance: You will face consequences for your actions. You have our promise.”
What does this mean?
“Our Department of Environmental Protection is determined to hold those who discharge PFAS responsible for the havoc wrought by their forever chemicals,” he said. “This proposed settlement marks a significant milestone in New Jersey’s nation-leading efforts to better protect public health and our environment from the dangers of PFAS. It requires Solvay to fund critical environmental investigations, remediation activities and natural resource restoration projects that will improve drinking water and environmental quality in the Gloucester and Camden County communities that have borne the brunt of PFAS impacts that DEP believes were caused by Solvay. As DEP oversees the implementation of this settlement in South Jersey, we will continue to pursue PFAS manufacturers for the widespread harm their chemicals have caused across our state.”
For more than 30 years, Solvay’s West Deptford site manufactured industrial plastics, coatings and other chemicals. As part of its operations, Solvay used Surflon, a proprietary process aid, which contained perfluorononanoic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid. These “forever chemicals” are highly mobile, bioaccumulate and persist indefinitely in the environment unless remediated.
The West Deptford facility also discharged other PFAS, including monofunctional surfactants and bifunctional surfactants, in addition to other contaminants, including semi-volatile organic compounds, also known as replacement compounds, volatile organic compounds, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls.
In March 2019, the DEP issued a Statewide Directive to Solvay and other companies responsible for PFAS contamination in New Jersey, ordering them to address their contribution to the injury of numerous environmentally sensitive natural resources including regional potable groundwater resources. Solvay did not fully comply with DEP orders and litigation followed. Solvay is the first company named in the Directive to reach a proposed settlement with the state.