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Michigan AG sues paper company over PFAS-contaminated waste

FILE photo - lawsuit
Nick Youngson

The state of Michigan is accusing a former paper mill owner of sending contaminated waste to a composting site for decades in the Thumb region.

The lawsuit seeks payments from Domtar Industries for identifying the contamination, near Port Huron, and to restore areas affected by PFAS, an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are known as "forever chemicals."

"Michigan residents should not be left holding the bag for the impacts of corporate PFAS contamination, nor for the costs of cleaning it up," Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

Domtar, based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, said it doesn't comment on lawsuits.

Domtar formerly operated a paper mill in Port Huron and sent waste to a company-controlled composting site in Port Huron Township, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, accuses Domtar of knowing that the waste was contaminated, despite telling regulators that it was inert.

"Even if Domtar did not know prior to 1998 that its paper sludge contained PFAS and that PFAS are toxic, Domtar acquired this information thereafter during the 22-year period from 1998 to 2020," according to the lawsuit.

The state said it learned about the contamination in 2019.

"PFAS released by defendant have migrated into the environment, including, but not limited to, groundwater, surface waters, soils and sediments at and surrounding the Techni-Comp Site," the lawsuit states.

The compounds are called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment or the human body and can accumulate over time. They have been linked to a variety of health problems including cancer, liver damage and decreased fertility.