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Michigan sues Domtar over alleged 'forever chemical' contamination

MICHIGAN (From news reports) -- Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) this week announced a lawsuit against paper manufacturer Domtar, alleging the company's defunct Port Huron operation contaminated the community with "forever chemicals."

In the complaint, Nessel's office alleged that Domtar disposed of waste from production that it knew to be contaminated by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), falsely representing the waste as inert. PFAS do not biodegrade or break down in either the environment or human bodies, and have been linked to liver damage, fertility issues and cancer in humans.

Domtar operated a disposal site for the waste from production from 1998 to 2020, when the Port Huron plant closed. Regardless of whether the company was aware of the PFAS contamination from the start, the lawsuit argues, Domtar learned of it over the course of the site's two decades of operation.

"Domtar's fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions were material to the [state Department of Environmental Quality's] authorization, which expressly provided that Domtar shall be responsible for ensuring that the paper sludge continues to meet the inert criteria specified in Michigan status and rules and that Domtar is subject to liability for any discharges of contamination to the environment, including groundwater, surface water, air, and natural resources," the lawsuit states.

The site in question is located in Michigan's St. Clair County, already the site of a state investigation into PFAS contamination in drinking water, groundwater, lakes and streams. State officials said in February there was no evidence of impact on municipal drinking water.

"Michigan residents should not be left holding the bag for the impacts of corporate PFAS contamination, nor for the costs of cleaning it up," Nessel said in a statement. "My efforts to hold companies accountable for contaminating our communities will continue where corporations are not taking adequate remediation efforts or responsibility for their actions."

Nessel has previously filed lawsuits against several PFAS manufacturers and the manufacturers of firefighting foam containing the chemicals.

A Domtar spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

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