Flemish Belgian community serves PFAS legal notice against 3M
The Flemish Region of Belgium on September 14 served a Notice of Default against 3M Belgium and 3M Company alleging the company violated the nation’s Environmental Act and possibly international laws by discharging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or perflourinated chemicals from its industrial facility in Zwijndrecht, near Antwerp, Belguim, causing extensive environmental contamination. The Minister of Justice and Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism of the Flemish Government formally issued today’s notice both in Belgium and at 3M Company’s headquarters in the State of Minnesota.
3M Belgium, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based manufacturer 3M Company, has until Oct. 1, 2021 to present a plan that “outlines and guarantees” how it will timely address the alleged violations raised by the Flemish Ministry, according to the notice. If 3M fails to do so, the Flemish Ministry will pursue further legal action in both Belgium and the United States.
Motley Rice LLC, one of the largest plaintiffs’ law firms in the U.S., co-counsels with Belgian law firms Verbist & Vanlerberghe Omega Law, and Dewallens & Partners to represent the Flemish Minister of Justice and Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism of the Flemish Government for legal matters in the U.S. and consults on the environmental matters in Belgium.
PFAS chemicals were first developed in the 1950s and used to provide the non-stick coating on cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, firefighting foams, and other products. Known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS accumulate due to the persistence in the environment, and body. They are toxic chemicals and capable of continuously contaminating the air, soil and groundwater. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both established that these chemicals are highly toxic and hazardous to the environment and human health.
In addition to civil proceedings, 3M Belgium is currently the subject of a criminal investigation regarding improper disposal of toxic PFAS containing chemical waste. The company continued to emit hazardous PFAS chemicals long after claiming it shut down production of the toxin in 2002, the Flemish Region alleges. As a result, the company allegedly contaminated the soil and groundwater of the Flemish Region and other surrounding areas with these toxic chemicals.
The notice serves to put 3M on notice of its alleged Belgian regulatory violations with demands that the company:
- (i) immediately cease any further violation of the Environmental Act;
- (ii) take all possible initiatives to remediate any form of PFOS pollution – or of other polluting substances from the PFAS group, including MeFBSA and MeFBSAA – in the soil and surface water and groundwater. This also implies, but is not limited to, a strict and timely compliance with any current or future soil remediation obligations by 3M Belgium.
- (iii) provide all current information in the possession of 3M Belgium and 3M Company about the possible hazards of PFOS or other PFAS in the environment, and to the health of residents in the Flemish Region;
- (iv) to indemnify the Flemish Region for any costs it has had to incur, currently incurs and has yet to incur to remediate the pollution caused by 3M Belgium, as well as any other damage the Flemish Region may incur due to the PFOS pollution caused by 3M Belgium or incurs due the pollution by other PFAS or which would be recovered from the Flemish Region by third parties.
“3M is a global company and it is not surprising misconduct allegations would extend to communities worldwide,” said Motley Rice attorney for the Flemish Region, Esther Berezofsky. “This notice gives 3M the opportunity to timely develop a plan to remediate and abate the alleged contamination, clean up these toxins and address the environmental damages it is alleged it has created. On behalf of its impacted citizens, the Flemish Ministry stands resolute and is prepared to pursue all available options to achieve justice so no one shoulders this burden alone” said Motley Rice attorney for the Flemish Region, Michael M. Buchman.
About Motley Rice LLC
Motley Rice is one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms. With a tradition of representing those whose rights have been violated, Motley Rice attorneys gained recognition for their pioneering asbestos lawsuits, their work with the State Attorneys General in the landmark litigation against Big Tobacco, and their representation of 9/11 families in the ongoing lawsuit against terrorist financiers. The firm continues to handle complex litigation in numerous areas, including securities fraud; antitrust; consumer protection; mesothelioma; environmental contamination; prescription and over-the-counter drugs; medical devices; human rights; aviation disasters; and wrongful death. Motley Rice is headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and has additional offices in Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; New York; Pennsylvania; Missouri; Rhode Island; and West Virginia. For more information, contact Motley Rice attorney Esther Berezofsky (NJ, PA) at 1.800.768.4026 or visit www.motleyrice.com. Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the New Jersey practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky is the attorney responsible for New Jersey practice.