MARTINSBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Martinsburg Municipal Authority has brought action against 39 companies over contaminated water it claims the companies caused.

This lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in August, following an initial suit filed in the Blair County Court of Common Pleas in May.

In the suit, Martinsburg Municipal Authority claims that these companies have been manufacturing, distributing and selling products that contain toxic compounds identified as ‘per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances’ (PFAS) since the 1960s.

The suit also claims that at no time was the Municipal Authority aware, nor should it have reasonably known, of the ongoing contamination.

Martinsburg’s water supply is drawn from four different ground wells, all of which have tested positive for this contaminant.  

PFAS are often found in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used to control and extinguish aviation, marine, fuel, and other shallow spill fires and is therefore used by fire departments for training purposes. 

According to the lawsuit, the town’s water supply is currently contaminated with highly toxic PFAS compounds including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Both compounds are known to be toxic, persistent in the environment, not biodegradable, move easily through ground water and pose a significant risk to human health and safety. These components are known carcinogens to animals.

These chemicals render drinking water unsafe and/or non-potable but can be removed from public drinking water supplies only at substantial expense.

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that “human epidemiology data report associations between PFOA exposure and high cholesterol, increased liver enzymes, decreased vaccination response, thyroid disorders, pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia, and cancer (testicular and kidney)” and that “there is suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential for PFOS.”

The Martinsburg Volunteer Fire Department has foam on hand but say their only reason for having it is because of the Altoona-Blair County Airport in the area.

“We have foam here. Basically, we’re a backup for the airport, so if a plane comes in and crashes, the airport will be there first with their crash truck. We actually assist them then,” Fire Chief Randy Acker said.

In the lawsuit, Martinsburg Municipal Authority claims that the Fire Department uses AFFF for fire-fighting and training activities in areas surrounding the town’s wells, including, but not limited to, at the Altoona-Blair County Airport.

The full complaint is available to read below.

A lawyer involved with the matter said that the main reason for the suit is to recover funds to improve water quality for Martinsburg.

Residents of Martinsburg have not received any notices about the safety of their water.

PFAS are not listed on the 2022 Annual Drinking Water Report issued by Martinsburg Municipal Authority.

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The next Municipal Authority meeting will be on Thursday, Sep. 21 at the Borough Building, on South Walnut Street; an agenda has not yet been released.