NJ PFAS Alert: Solvay Enters $393 Million Settlement with Garden State to Remediate Contamination

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New Jersey just announced a proposed $393 million settlement with Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC that would ensure the remediation of contamination near Solvay’s facility in West Deptford that manufactures plastic components for consumer products. This contamination included the release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

The proposed settlement commits Solvay to: 

  • Pay for and implement comprehensive remedial activities at and in the vicinity of its West Deptford facility; 
  • Provide financial support for certain public water system upgrades necessary to remove PFAS from drinking water; 
  • Further investigate and address certain PFAS impacts to public water systems and private potable drinking water wells in the vicinity; and 
  • Compensate the public for natural resources injured by the discharge of hazardous substances. 

Solvay must also post $214 million to guarantee New Jersey sufficient financial resources to complete the cleanup should Solvay fail to meet its ongoing remedial obligations. The agreement does not require Solvay to admit fault. 

For more than 30 years, Solvay’s West Deptford site manufactured industrial plastics, coatings, and other chemicals. As part of its operations, Solvay used Surflon, a proprietary process aid, which contained perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Published studies of the area found a type of PFAS known as chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates, or ClPFPECAs, in soil samples and drinking water near Solvay’s West Deptford facility. 

The West Deptford facility also discharged other PFAS, including monofunctional surfactants (MFS) and bifunctional surfactants (BFS), in addition to other contaminants, including semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), also known as replacement compounds, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), metals, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These “forever chemicals” are highly mobile, bioaccumulate, and persist indefinitely in the environment unless remediated. 

In March 2019, New Jersey issued a statewide directive to Solvay and other companies responsible for PFAS contamination in New Jersey, ordering them to address their contribution to the injury of numerous environmentally sensitive natural resources including regional potable groundwater resources. New Jersey commenced litigation when Solvay did not fully comply with the directive. 

In the time since New Jersey filed its lawsuit, Solvay took steps to reduce the use and impacts of PFAS at its site—including eliminating the use of PFAS in Solvay’s process aids for manufacturing and implementing additional treatment of the facility’s wastewater effluent streams. By 2021 Solvay had transitioned its West Deptford plant into using other types of chemical substances. 

Solvay is the first company named in the 2019 directive to settle with New Jersey. The public will have 60 days to submit comments after the proposal officially appears in the August 7 edition of the New Jersey Register. If, after public comment, the proposed settlement is finalized and approved by the court, it will be entered as a binding Judicial Consent Order. 

Solvay’s settlement could be the first of several pursuant to New Jersey’s 2019 directive, which also addressed E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., DuPont Specialty Chemicals, the Chemours Company, and 3M. It is likely that other states beginning to deal with PFAS contamination concerns will look to New Jersey’s approach as a guide when developing their own strategies to address the issue. Time will tell whether New Jersey’s agreement with Solvay becomes the first domino in a cascade of state-specific agreements entered into by companies alleged to have engaged in PFAS contamination.