The Denver City Council hired 16 law firms Monday, dolling out $12 million alone to 12 firms who will help settle civil liability lawsuits.
The city also hired four law firms to sue chemical companies for allowing dangerous substances to seep into the groundwater.
Aqueous film-forming foam also is known as AFFF. The city is suing all companies who manufactured, distributed, marketed or sold the chemicals.
The firms of Keller Rohrback, Napoli Shkolnick, Edelson and Miner and Barnhill & Galland will receive 15 % of all damages collected up to $500 million, and 10 % of all damages collected beyond $500 million.
‘Dangerous to human health’
“Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (collectively, ‘PFAS’) are a class of highly toxic ‘forever’ chemicals that persist in the environment indefinitely ,” according to a memo from city staff to City Council. “These chemicals are human-made and do not occur naturally in the environment. PFAS are dangerous to human health and the environment even at fleetingly low
According to the memo, there may be no safe level of exposure to PFAS. “PFAS exposure interferes with human immune system functioning, disrupts mammalian reproductive and endocrine systems, and is associated with increased risks of kidney and testicular cancer,” according to the memo. “In addition to being highly toxic, these ‘forever chemicals’ are highly mobile. When they enter the environment, they travel through soil and eventually work their way into groundwater.”
Airport a hot spot
Some PFAS were used in DuPont’s Teflon. Another common use for PFAS is as a fire retardant.
The greatest use in Denver has been at Denver International Airport, and actually is required by the Federal Aviation Administration. “This problem is particularly acute for Denver as the operator of DEN, the second-largest airport in the world by land area,” according to the memo. “Denver also knows that PFAS contamination exists in soils and groundwater at the Roslyn Fire Training Facility and may be present in other Denver owned properties, as well.”
Cleanup will be difficult, expensive, and take years to complete, according to city staff. “The defendant companies, who continued to manufacture and sell these chemicals for decades despite their knowledge, should pay to help clean up the mess that they created.”
Civil lawsuits against police department
The firms hired to help settle civil lawsuits involving the police department include:
Lambdin & Cheney
Morgan Rider Riter Tsai
Nathan, Dumm & Mayer
Overturf, McGrath & Hull
Dagner, Schluter Weber LLC
Dietze and Davis P.C.
Hall and Evans, LLC
Kissinger and Fellman, P.C.
Lasater and Martin, P.C.
Vaughn & DeMuro
Wells Anderson & Race
Settlements total almost $30 million
Since 2010, Denver has paid out about $30 million in settlements, according to a city staff report. City council member Paul Kashmann said in January he believes the City Attorneys’ Office could better spend their time than preparing for briefings to give council members. The council rubber-stamps the approvals. Never in Kashmann's many years on council can he remember the council not approving a settlement, he said. He said he has confidence in the recommendations the City Attorney’s Office makes regarding settlements.
Council member Candi CdeBaca said she believes the process for handling settlements is flawed. She said the council should have a stronger role in the settlements “and not just a signature on paper.” She said it’s important to remember “the taxpayer money we’re wasting on bad behavior or big mistakes.”
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