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You are here News Environment 'Forever chemicals' are everywhere. The battle over who pays to clean them up is just getting started.

'Forever chemicals' are everywhere. The battle over who pays to clean them up is just getting started.

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Forever chemicals are everywhere

State and local governments across the country are suing manufacturers of toxic chemicals that are contaminating much of the nation’s drinking water, aiming to shield water customers and taxpayers from the massive cost of cleaning them up.

These pervasive “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, are linked to a variety of health hazards, including cancer. Now, as state lawmakers and federal regulators get serious about removing them, scores of governments and water suppliers are in pitched court battles over who is on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in damage — the companies that created the chemicals or the customers who are drinking them.

Key rulings starting later this year could determine which side has the upper hand in these cases, which are part of an unfolding legal saga that could become the most expensive in U.S. history.

Early estimates of the cost of removing PFAS from drinking water nationwide are about $400 billion — dwarfing the cost of settlements and cleanup costs from environmental contamination like asbestos and lead pipes or other public health settlements tied to tobacco and opioids.

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