Newark-based W.L. Gore and Associates is facing a federal class action lawsuit and possible jury trial over the use of PFOAs (sometimes known as forever chemicals) at its Cherry Hill plant. The site is about seven miles west of Newark, near Elkton, MD.
Gore operates smaller-scale manufacturing and research sites that serve industrial markets that include cabling, hydrogen fuel membranes and aerospace applications. Materials, often under the Gore-Tex brand, have been used in everything from dental floss to guitar strings.
The cmpany issued the following through a spokesman: “W. L. Gore & Associates is aware of the filing and will review the allegations made in the lawsuit regarding the operations of our Cherry Hill Facility. The Complaint makes allegations about water data that Gore has not seen. W. L. Gore & Associates takes claims of this nature very seriously and will respond more specifically at the appropriate time.”
Gore was founded in Newark and initially produced cable using PTFE polymer.. Most Gore manufacturing and research sites in the region are located in neighboring Cecil County, MD. Gore also has a fast-growing. medical division based in Arizona.
Global sales at privately held Gore are approaching $4 billion a year.
The suit was filed by Baird, Mandalas, Brockstedt Fedrico & Cardea, LLC, a Delaware law firm that merged with a Baltimore-based practice that is listed as representing the plaintiffs in the case.
The suit alleges that the use of PFOAs (sometimes known as forever chemicals) caused harm to water supplies, employees and those living near the Cherry Hill site, with an investigation underway under the auspices of the firm.
In 2014, Gore reported it was eliminating PFOAs from its manufacturing processes. The chemicals have been around since the 1940s.
PFOAs and their predecessors are effective at warding off moisture in outdoor apparel and firefighting gear. However, the chemicals do not break down and find their way into water supplies and other areas of the environment.
Delaware-based DuPont, spinoff company Chemours and 3M have faced litigation over forever chemicals in water supplies. High concentrations have been found around airports and air bases where firefighting chemicals are used. A lawyer took on DuPont over allegations of water-based pollution-related issues from a West Virginia plant and became the subject of a movie.
Studies have suggested a link to PFOAs and kidney and other types of cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
Earlier Baird, Mandalas was a party to a $65 million settlement with poultry processor Mountaire in a lawsuit over pollution at a plant in southern Delaware.
The law firm said the total settlement was $205 million and includes $120 million for necessary plant upgrades at Mountaire’s facilities, $20 million for ongoing maintenance, and $65 million for direct compensation to those affected.