An outdoor water faucet. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Two groups of water customers in Connecticut are seeking class action certification in lawsuits against both Aquarion Water Company and the Connecticut Water Company over claims the suppliers knowingly sold water containing dangerous levels of PFAS chemicals.

Both groups are represented by the Stamford-based law firm Silver Golub & Teitell, which has filed a complaint against Aquarion in Bridgeport Superior Court and a nearly identical suit against CWC in Hartford Superior Court.

Each complaint names three plaintiffs who purchased and ingested water containing types of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – persistent “forever chemicals,” which have been linked to a slew of health complications like cancer and developmental and immune system problems, among others. 

The lawsuits contend that both companies knew that water supplied to many communities contained elevated PFAS levels between 2019 – when the suppliers began voluntarily testing for the substances – and today. 

“As a direct and proximate result of defendant Aquarion’s willful, wanton, and reckless conduct, Plaintiffs and members of the Class suffered, presently suffer, and will continue to suffer personal injuries, the necessity for long-term medical monitoring, annoyance, upset, aggravation, and inconvenience,” the attorneys wrote in a line that also appears in the complaint against CWC.

In Connecticut Water Company’s case, the plaintiffs also noted that CWC sued a group of manufacturers in 2021, when the water company sought to recover costs associated with addressing PFAS contamination. In that lawsuit, lawyers for the water company described many of the same health risks associated with the chemicals.

“CWC thus knew, or reasonably should have known, that PFAS Chemicals are toxic, harmful to human health, resist natural degradation, render drinking water unsafe and/or non-potable, and are capable of being removed from public drinking water supplies if proper action is taken,” lawyers wrote in the more recent case.

Both groups are seeking certification from a judge to proceed as a class action lawsuit and noted that potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals and entities may have been damaged by the contaminated water supply.

Aquarion, an Eversource subsidiary, serves around 750,000 people in 72 municipalities throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, while the Connecticut Water Company serves about 350,000 people in 60 Connecticut towns and cities, according to the lawsuits.

In separate statements Friday, both companies said they proactively began testing for PSAFs in 2019 and were closely following ongoing efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to draft regulations for PSAF levels in drinking water.

In a statement, Peter Fazekas, Aquarion’s director of corporate communications, said the proposed regulations would allow water systems three years to come into compliance with the new rules.

“Aquarion Water Company takes the quality of its water very seriously to ensure that it meets or exceeds all state and federal water quality standards. Currently there are no federal or state (Connecticut) enforceable standards for the treatment of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances,” he said. “Aquarion is committed to continuing to work closely with policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders to address PFAS.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Meaney, Connecticut Water Company’s director of external and corporate communications, said that the water provided by CWC was in compliance with all current state and federal regulations. After the company began proactively testing for PFAS, it also notified impacted customers when the chemicals were detected, Meaney said. 

“Connecticut Water is closely following the U.S. EPA’s proposed standard for PFAS in drinking and will treat the water to the standard set by EPA to remain in compliance with drinking water standards,” he said. 

The federal environmental agency released its draft proposal in March and has anticipated finalizing the regulations by the end of this year. 

“EPA expects that if fully implemented, the rule will prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses,” the agency said in an overview of its proposed regulations

The draft regulations anticipate capping the types of PFAS chemicals at issue in the Connecticut lawsuits at 4.0 parts per trillion. 

The complaints reference test results from both companies showing levels exceeding that threshold in more than a dozen Connecticut towns. For instance, PFAS levels in a Woodbury well appeared as high as 22 ppt in September of 2022. According to the lawsuit, Aquarion has taken steps to resolve the Woodbury contamination.

“Although Aquarion implemented an effective solution for one system — Woodbury — it failed to do so for any other water source with detectable levels of PFAS Chemicals,” the attorneys wrote. “Aquarion has thus been knowingly supplying dozens of Connecticut towns and/or cities … with water Aquarion knows is contaminated.”