Asahi Kasei Plastics North America Inc. will be required to investigate and remediate contamination from so-called "forever chemicals" around its former compounding plant in Brighton, Mich., under a Jan. 30 agreement with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The agreement settles a lawsuit Nessel brought against the Fowlerville, Mich.-based company and requires Asahi Kasei to investigate per- and polyfluoroalkyl contamination in soil, groundwater and surface water discharges and take action if they exceed state criteria.
It's the first settlement of 17 PFAS lawsuits Nessel brought against several companies in 2020. She called it a "landmark" agreement.
"The agreed-upon framework for compliance at this site requires work under an enforceable schedule and is a favorable outcome for Michigan," said Nessel. "This settlement reflects my promise to protect the public and the environment from the harmful impacts of PFAS and hold companies responsible for contamination."
Nessel's lawsuit alleged that operations of the plant "resulted in the releases of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) into the environment" at levels that exceed state standards.
The agreement, however, says that Asahi Kasei agrees to assume responsibility "without admitting liability."
The settlement said that it is not "an admission of any factual allegations or legal conclusions stated or implied herein" by the company.
Under its terms, Asahi Kasei must investigate potential contamination in water wells, soil and groundwater, as well as submit remediation plans to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for PFAS levels that exceed state criteria.
It also calls for any work plans that are of "significant public interest" to be made available for public comment.
The agreement requires Asahi Kasei to pay $175,000 to cover the state's direct litigation costs, as well as $2.4 million to specialized outside lawyers Nessel retained.
Asahi Kasei must also pay the state $663,000 for costs incurred by its environment department, as well as future costs the state agency may have.
The company did not respond to a request for comment but Crain's Detroit Business quoted the firm as saying that it's a "proud Michigan employer with deep ties to the local community. We are committed to protecting and preserving our state's environment and acting as a responsible corporation and member of the community."
Tokyo-based Asahi Kasei bought the site in 2000, when it acquired the compounding operations of Thermofil, which was founded in Brighton in the 1960s and had been acquired by Nippon Steel Chemical Co. in 1989.
The original Brighton facility had been severely damaged by a fire in the late 1990s. Thermofil opened the Fowlerville plant in 1999.
Nessel's office said additional lawsuits are proceeding in six separate cases. Lawsuits against 3M, Chemguard and DuPont are part of larger litigation in federal courts, while others are being litigated in Michigan courts.