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News / Business / Clark County Business

Camas joins lawsuit against ‘forever chemicals’ manufacturers

Attorneys are working on contingency basis, with no upfront costs to city

By Kelly Moyer, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: May 9, 2023, 6:07am

The city of Camas has entered into a class action lawsuit against the manufacturers of toxic “forever” chemicals used in firefighting foam and other products.

The Camas City Council voted unanimously on May 1 to join the nationwide lawsuit and be represented by the three law firms — D’Amore Law Group in Vancouver; the Louisiana-based Cossich, Sumich, Parsiola & Taylor and Baron & Buddout of Dallas.

“The attorneys will operate on a contingency basis, so there are no fees unless they recover (money from the chemical manufacturers),” Public Works Director Steve Wall told council members. “If they are not successful, the city still would not owe them any fees. They are doing this, essentially, at their own risk.”

Elevated levels of the potentially harmful “forever chemicals” were discovered in 2022 in a drinking water well near Louis Bloch Park.

The city took the well, which is referred to as Well 13, offline and notified its water customers in January.

The city of Camas’ communications director, Bryan Rachal, told The Post-Record in January that determining the exact source of the “forever chemicals” in Well 13 would be “extremely hard to do” and noted that, although some jurisdictions have found elevated PFAS levels in water sources near military bases or certain manufacturing sites, there is no obvious contamination source near Well 13.

“We don’t know why that well was testing higher,” Rachal said.

Testing on Well 13 showed readings of 25 parts per trillion (PPT) in April 2022, and 17 PPT in December 2022 — above the state’s action level of 15 PPT — for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, also known as PFOS, a colorless chemical once used to make products resistant to stains, grease, soil and water and one of five PFAS the state is monitoring.

PFOS has not been manufactured in the United states since the early 2000s, but may still be used on products imported from other countries.

Wall said the city continues to test its wells for PFAS and is looking for potential treatment options for Well 13, which Wall said “won’t likely be needed until the peak of demands in the summer.”

Rachal, the city’s communications director, said in January that city staff are researching possible long-term solutions for the PFOS found in Well 13.

“As far as the city is concerned, our water is safe for consumption right now,” Rachal said.