In the 1960s, researchers from the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory began testing a new class of firefighting foam that could rapidly extinguish fuel fires. The foams, dubbed aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), were a boon to firefighters. Special perfluorinated chemicals gave AFFF unique hydrophobic and surfactant properties, allowing it to rapidly seal over burning fuel and prevent reignition once a blaze had been extinguished. By the 1970s, AFFF was in use at most military bases, airports, refineries, and many civilian fire departments around the world.
Orange County, California water districts are considering a massive lawsuit over PFAS contamination of the water supply, although they’re not likely to target the largest polluter – the US military. Instead, they’ll probably go after 3M and DuPont and a handful of other companies that manufacture PFAS products. The municipal water folks, who have been serving PFAS-tainted water to the public for years, are now faced with a $1 billion clean-up bill and they are looking for someone to pay for it.