The Role of Legal Action in Addressing Cleanup Efforts for AFFF Contamination

The Role of Legal Action in Addressing Cleanup Efforts for AFFF Contamination

Ali Abbas

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The specter of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) contamination looms large across communities nationwide. This firefighting foam once hailed for its effectiveness, is now linked to serious health and environmental concerns. While the need for cleanup is undeniable, the path to a comprehensive solution is riddled with obstacles. Enter legal action, a potentially transformative force in addressing the contamination. 

This article explores the multifaceted role lawsuits can play in driving forward cleanup efforts, ensuring accountability, and securing resources for impacted communities.

Holding Manufacturers Accountable

AFFF lawsuits play a pivotal role in holding manufacturers accountable for contamination and seeking financial compensation for cleanup costs. By demonstrating that manufacturers knew or should have known about the dangers of the foam, litigation can compel manufacturers to contribute to remediation efforts. 

TruLaw notes that this legal action is about seeking financial compensation and establishing legal precedent regarding manufacturer liability for the contamination. Legal precedents set through such lawsuits can influence future cleanup efforts and deter manufacturers from engaging in irresponsible practices.

According to FOX 61, a recent example of such legal action is Attorney General William Tong’s filing of two lawsuits against 28 chemical manufacturers. The lawsuits allege that these manufacturers contaminated Connecticut waters with PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.”

The lawsuits seek injunctive and monetary relief, compelling companies to dispose of toxic chemical stocks, abate pollution, and disclose research. They also aim to compensate the state for past and future remediation expenses.

Enforcing Government Action

Legal action against government agencies responsible for AFFF use can exert pressure on them to allocate resources for cleanup efforts. Lawsuits serve as a powerful tool for holding government entities accountable for environmental contamination and compelling them to take proactive measures to address it. 

Furthermore, lawsuits against government agencies can lead to the establishment of stricter regulations regarding the foam’s disposal and cleanup. When faced with legal challenges, government entities may reassess their practices and implement more robust measures to prevent future contamination incidents. 

This can result in a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to addressing the contamination across various sites and jurisdictions.

According to, a recent example of such legal action involves lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Defense. These lawsuits concern PFAS water contamination at Cannon Air Force Base (CAFB) in New Mexico.

Plaintiffs, including dairy and agricultural farms, have filed complaints seeking compensation and remediation. While the government argues immunity from liability, these lawsuits underscore the importance of enforcing government accountability in addressing the contamination.


Securing Compensation for Affected Communities

Multidistrict litigation (MDL) serves as a potent mechanism for communities affected by AFF) contamination to seek compensation for various damages incurred. These legal actions can address property devaluation, medical expenses resulting from AFFF exposure, and other related harms suffered by residents. 

By consolidating the claims into a single lawsuit, MDL enables affected communities to collectively pursue justice and hold responsible parties accountable.

Legal victories in the lawsuits can result in the establishment of compensation funds dedicated to supporting the well-being of affected communities. These funds may finance medical monitoring and treatment programs aimed at addressing the adverse health effects associated with AFFF exposure. 

Furthermore, an MDL sends a strong message to manufacturers, government agencies, and other entities responsible for pollution. It underscores the importance of corporate accountability and environmental stewardship.

Navigating the Murky Waters of AFFF Lawsuits

A major hurdle in the lawsuits is the ongoing scientific investigation into the long-term health effects of AFFF exposure. This uncertainty can complicate establishing causation, a critical element in any lawsuit. Proving that the foam’s exposure directly caused specific illnesses can be difficult, especially when dealing with complex health issues.

Additionally, environmental litigation is notoriously protracted and expensive. Lawsuits involving AFFF contamination are no exception. These complex cases can drag on for years, requiring significant financial resources to navigate the legal process. This can be a major burden for communities already struggling with the financial consequences of contamination.

According to Bloomberg Law, an additional layer of complexity comes from the potential for companies responsible for AFFF contamination to declare bankruptcy

Recent developments, such as 3M Co.’s multibillion-dollar settlement over PFAS contamination, underscore the financial risks faced by corporate defendants. Additionally, fire detection company Kidde-Fenwal Inc.’s Chapter 11 filing due to PFAS-related lawsuits highlights these risks further.

With growing public awareness and new regulations surrounding PFAS substances, legal actions against corporate entities are expected to multiply. This can potentially lead to more bankruptcy filings.

Given the complexities of AFFF litigation, communities and individuals may require significant legal support. Environmental lawyers with expertise in navigating these types of cases are essential for maximizing the chances of a successful outcome.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can apply for an AFFF lawsuit?

Anyone affected by AFFF contamination can potentially apply for a lawsuit, including individuals, communities, businesses, and government entities. Those seeking legal recourse typically include property owners, residents, environmental organizations, and municipalities impacted by the contamination.

Is AFFF a regulated substance?

Yes, AFFF is a regulated substance. It’s classified as a hazardous material by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration due to its physical hazards like skin and eye irritation. The discharge of AFFF wastewater or runoff into water bodies is regulated under the Clean Water Act.

Is AFFF foam banned?

No, AFFF is not banned. However, there are restrictions on its use due to environmental concerns. Some jurisdictions have phased out the use of certain types of foam containing PFAS chemicals to mitigate contamination risks.


AFFF contamination presents a complex and multifaceted challenge. The fight for cleanup, accountability, and justice requires a multi-pronged approach. Legal action offers a powerful tool for driving forward cleanup efforts, holding manufacturers accountable, and securing compensation for affected communities. 

While significant challenges remain, from scientific uncertainty to protracted legal battles, the potential rewards are undeniable. By working tog—er – communities, legal professionals, and environmental advocates – we can navigate the legal landscape. 

The fight against contamination is not just about environmental restoration. It’s about protecting public health, securing justice, and ensuring that future generations inherit a world free from the dangers of these “forever chemicals.” Let this be a call to action – a call for collaboration, innovation, and a united front against the lasting legacy of AFFF.