PFOS legal case dropped by States of Guernsey at cost of £8m

Image caption The government carried out millions of pounds worth of work to prevent drinking water being contaminated.

Guernsey's government has dropped a legal case against the maker of an allegedly dangerous fire-fighting foam, at a cost of £8m to the tax payer.

Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) was a component in foam used at both Guernsey and Alderney airports from the 1970s until the year 2000.

Its use resulted in groundwater contamination and there were claims that it could be dangerous.

Manufacturers 3M argued the chemical presented no harm to the community.

The legal action - which was heard in the High Court in London - was an attempt to recoup some of the costs involved in making water courses and soil around the airport safe.

PFOS has been identified as a persistent pollutant with the potential to damage the environment and human health and many countries, including the UK, have restricted its use since 2007.

Early settlement

The Public Services Department (PSD) carried out work to ensure drinking water standards were not affected, and contaminated soil was moved and stored at Guernsey airport. That and future planned work was estimated to cost up to £27m.

The States said its legal team advised a successful outcome was now unlikely and it has agreed to a settlement.

A PSD spokesman said: "By bringing the case to an early settlement, the States avoids the risk of being liable for millions of pounds in additional costs that could be incurred by both sides if the High Court action continued to a conclusion and the judge found in favour of 3M."

The government will pay Guernsey's legal costs of £6.6m and 3M's legal costs of £1.4m.

A Treasury and Resources Department spokesman said it was "extremely disappointed that the States has expended such significant resources".

"This will necessitate the Public Services Department re-prioritising its capital investment at the airport and harbours in order to manage within the reduced balances now available," they said.

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