Kalispel Tribe files $21 million claim against U.S., companies for firefighting foam contamination

The Kalispel Tribe is suing the government and several companies for water contamination due to chemicals in firefighting foam
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SPOKANE, Wash – The Kalispel Tribe joined multiple other jurisdictions across the country Monday, filing a major lawsuit over water contamination due to cancer-causing chemicals in firefighting foam.

The tribe and Northern Quest Casino are plaintiffs in the claim, filed in federal court. They list damages of $21 million.

The claim is against The 3M Company, Tyco Fire Products, Chemguard, Buckeye Fire Equipment, National Foam and Kiddle Firefighting. Each is alleged to have a role in the manufacturing, sale and usage of chemicals containing PFAS, identified by the EPA as persistent in the environment and the human body. The claim is also against the U.S. government.

The chemical has shown up in many areas, especially on Air Force bases, including Fairchild. The claim says PFAS-containing chemicals were used on the base starting in 1970. Water was found to be at contaminated levels in other areas in and around Airway Heights in 2016.

The claim says the tribe purchases water from the city of Airway Heights for Northern Quest and other tribal uses. In May 2017, the tribe was notified that the wellfield for the city was contaminated with PFAS in excess of the EPA’s guidelines for safety. At the, time, Northern Quest took action to find safe water for drinking, restaurants, etc. The suit says “they undertook near heroic efforts to supply it in a short time” and that it was a “major disruption of the business.”

The suit claims the issue made guests and employees “afraid for their health and personal safety.” The suit says the casino experienced well-documented losses in revenue and cost and a “stigma effect to Northern Quest for a substantial period of time, further increasing losses.”

The suit says the manufacturers of the chemicals knew or should have known what they were manufacturing was dangerous. The tribe wants the company to pay $21,270,000 in damages.

It also wants the U.S. to pay the same amount, saying “the United States Air Force knew the ground and groundwater of the West Plains Aquifer at Fairchild would offer a disposal mechanism for its pollutants” and failed in its duties to protect the water supply.

The claim was filed Monday in the Eastern District of Washington. Neither the companies nor the U.S. have responded to the suit.