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B.C. sues manufacturers of 'forever chemicals' seeping into water

First suit of its kind in Canada alleges negligence in product design and public awareness
Todd Schierling, president of BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, holds up a personal protective gear at a news conference in Victoria in mid-March. This type of gear contains what are called forever chemicals linked to cancer and B.C.'s Attorney-General Niki Sharma Friday announced that B.C. is suing manufacturers of forever chemicals that entered water systems. (Black Press Media file photo)

The provincial government is suing manufacturers of so-called 'forever' chemicals that have shown up in B.C. water systems. 

Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances include thousands of highly persistent, non-naturally occurring chemicals linked to various forms of cancer. B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma Friday (June 21) announced the province has filed a national class suit in British Columbia Supreme Court to recover the costs of detecting and removing these chemicals from drinking-water systems.

Sharma said government is suing the listed defendants for negligence in designing defective products and failing to warn the public about the risks associated. B.C. is also accusing defendants of civil conspiracy and breaching the Competition Act. 

"This class action seeks compensation for the cost of issues caused by 'forever chemicals' being present in our drinking-water systems," Sharma said in a statement. "This case will ensure that companies that created the problem and profited from these chemicals, pay their fair share."

Research from the United States has linked PFAS with various types of cancer with manufacturers facing legal actions. Sharma said that B.C. becomes the first jurisdiction in Canada to hold PFAS manufacturers accountable and links this suit to B.C.'s historical suits against tobacco and opiate manufacturers. 

The B.C. Greens' Adam Olsen in mid-March tabled a private member's bill to phase out PFAS found in personal protective gear and foam used by firefighters.

That bill, however, died on the order paper with the end of the legislative session last month. 

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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