Sappi Paper Mill is Facing a Lawsuit Over Allegations of Forever Chemicals

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Sappi Paper Mill is Facing a Lawsuit Over Allegations of Forever Chemicals
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Somerset County resident Nathan Saunders has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and others in the county against Sappi North America, a prominent paper mill and manufacturer with a location in Skowhegan, Maine. Saunders’s lawsuit alleges that Sappi’s Somerset mill is the source of contamination that he and other Skowhegan residents have been exposed to, putting them at increased risk of cancer and other health problems.

The lawsuit claims the contamination spread from the mill’s water treatment plant.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) make up a group of man-made chemicals that are known for being particularly hard to break down in both the environment and the human body. This has led to them being referred to as “forever chemicals”. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds have been linked to reproductive, developmental, liver, kidney and other immunological conditions in animals, in addition to cancer. However, Sappi has been adamant about the unblemished nature of their environmental stewardship and has already announced that they plan to strongly dispute the claim. However, dozens of wells in the county were reportedly tested and found to contain dangerous levels of PFAS.

The EPA’s maximum limit of forever chemical contamination is 70 parts per trillion.

This lawsuit arose when Saunders tested his well only to find the forever chemical contaminants measure at 12,910 parts per trillion, far exceeding the EPA’s maximum limit for safe water. Saunders alleges that the PFAS contaminating his well came from biosolids spread from the mill’s water treatment plant in the form of sludge, contaminating the water of the surrounding areas. The attorney handling this lawsuit has estimated damages in the tens of millions of dollars to compensate Saunders and other homeowners in the area affected by the contaminants in their water. The lawsuit also requests that Sappi pay for the costs of diagnostic testing for residents living in the affected area. It is unclear how many people have suffered physical harm as a result of the water contamination, but as the case is further investigated, it’s possible that bodily harm damages will be added to the litigation.

Water contamination is one of the most common environmental torts.

A tort is a legal way of referring to an event that caused one or more persons some kind of harm. In regard to environmental torts, water pollution is one of the biggest areas of environmental tort law; with manufacturers, processing plants, and factories like Sappi Paper Mill located all around the country, it’s easy for groundwater, lakes, and rivers to be severely contaminated without notice until residents in the area start to feel the physical effects. Other common examples of environmental torts include oil leaks, chemical spills, harmful herbicides, and more. Whenever an environmental hazard arises due to the negligent or intentional acts of an individual or corporation, the injured parties may be eligible to pursue recourse in the form of an environmental tort, like the one Saunders is pursuing in Maine.

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