Bucks and MontCo residents pepper lawyers with questions regarding PFOA/PFOS contamination

    Erin Brockovich Skypes in to the meeting. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

    Erin Brockovich Skypes in to the meeting. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

    As cases of dangerous water contamination — caused by chemicals called PFCs — crop up around the country, lawsuits sometimes follow in their wake.

    Tuesday night, personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg courted potential plaintiffs impacted by the chemical’s use at military bases around the border of Bucks and Montgomery counties.

    More than 200 people packed the hallways of Upper Moreland High School for the firm’s presentation, which opened with an explanation of areas impacted by contamination and types of damages the lawyers believed they could litigate. Most fell into three buckets: property devaluation, personal injury and ongoing health monitoring.

    The firm even had celebrity environmental advocate Erin Brockovich, appear via video chat.

    “I can’t believe 22 years ago, I got involved in the water issue, and here we are in the future and it hasn’t gotten better,” she said. “Superman’s not coming. The EPA’s not going to save us. Politics aren’t going to save us.”

    Weitz & Luxenberg framed the community meeting a “fact finding mission,” but lead attorney Robin Greenwald said they’d already been approached by more than 100 residents seeking information on a potential lawsuit prior to the meeting.

    Following the presentation, the attorneys opened the floor for questions and concerns from residents.

    Christine Woods, of Upper Moreland, was one of several to highlight strings of unexplained illnesses or cancers.

    “My niece passed away from cancer five years ago,” said Woods. “Upper Moreland alone has at least seven kids with cancer, handful of them have already passed away.”

    Complains included high instances of certain cancers, found in kidneys, bladders and brains. The EPA’s most recent advisory information lists the potential health effects ranging from cancer to “cholesterol changes.”

    Other residents used the open mic to vent or ask questions about a potential lawsuit or information on contaminants that might be present in soil near the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base — Willow Grove and the Horsham Air Guard Station.

    Lead attorney Robin Greenwald scurried on and off stage to confer with individual attendees who wished to ask questions or share information.

    Afterwards, she was upbeat on the possibility of a class action suit.

    “[We] probably know enough right now, it’s a matter of coming up with the best legal strategy and the best legal theory,” said Greenwald. Greenwald and the other attorney present, Donald Soutar, deflected questions about which, or how many defendants they might name in a suit.

    Attendees scooped up all five hundred copies of standard retainer agreements the law firm provided.

    The firm represents at least 500 people in class action lawsuits related to the same contaminant in Hoosick Falls, New York. Earlier this month, levels of PFCs exceeding the EPA’s new 2016 guidelines for PFCs led the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to launch an investigation into drinking water in Doylestown, about 10 miles north contamination near the military bases.

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