US fire-fighting chemical case a tense wait for small town

A US lawsuit alleging contamination from fire-fighting chemicals is being closely watched in Australian towns such as Williamtown, New South Wales.

American chemical company DuPont is being sued by 3500 residents who claim to have been made sick by chemicals that leaked from the Dupont plant at Parkersburg, West Virginia, and contaminated their drinking water supply.

One of those chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid, has been used for decades in fire-fighting foam at defence bases including the Williamtown RAAF Base.

Residents surrounding the base were told last month that the chemical had leaked into the groundwater and into fish species, leading to water and fishing bans.

The ABC has reported there are similar contamination cases at the Oakey Defence Base in Queensland and the Country Fire Association training base in Fiskville, Victoria.

Ned McWilliams, one of the attorneys acting on behalf of the residents in the US, told the ABC the litigation had global ramifications.

"The United States is the canary in the coalmine for the rest of the world in terms of what we're learning, because this is where they were using the majority of this chemical and this is where they're disposing of the majority of this chemical," he said.

Topics:  chemical court case

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