Did officials drop the ball on tainted water lawsuit timeline?

(PNC file photo)

The governor’s attempts to get the Office of the Attorney General the subject matter experts they need to pursue litigation against the contamination of PFAS in our water appears to be somewhat of a last ditch effort prompted by the AG after they initially approached certain senators about the issue as early as March — to no success.

According to the South Carolina District Court, which is leading the pursuit in the multi-district litigation against manufacturers of PFAS-laced products, the court opened the doors to additional parties who may have wanted to join in on the lawsuit, as early as April 26, 2019 with the deadline set for June 7. However, an extension was granted on June 7, providing interested parties until Aug. 4 to join in on the suit.

And while the issue of PFAS and its presence in our waters dates as far back as 2015, this recent push, is the first ever launched by Guam — and now it has become a race against the clock.

But it appears that the race has been stalled by senators who want public input on the governor’s Prutehi i Hanom Act of 2019. The bill grants the AG’s Office the authority to seek subject matter experts. A setback that the AG finds unnecessary when faced with the pressing issue of the safety of our waters.

“I respect the political process but contamination in our water doesn’t. That’s really what we are trying to press upon the legislature whether we are on the train or not, the train’s moving forward,” AG Leevin Camacho said in an interview with Patti Arroyo on K-57.

“We’ve known for years that this has been an issue and this is the first time that I’ve seen a governor and several members of the legislature taking it upon themselves to take action on it and we’re ready,” Camacho said.

But urgency doesn’t seem to outweigh transparency, according to Sen. Sabina Perez, environmental committee chairwoman, and the seven other senators who voted to recess Monday’s special session on the governor’s bill, until after the public hearing is held next week, July 9.

According to Senator Perez, her intent is not just to hold these manufacturing companies accountable for the PFAS contamination, but the Department of Defense as well.

“I am in agreement that we need to hold the people accountable but not just solely the companies. We have to hold the military accountable as well. My fear is that if we settle that it basically takes away from the opportunity to hold the DOD accountable for the contamination and this has happened historically for many decades,” Perez said in an interview with Patti Arroyo on K-57.

But it appears the governor is not going down without a fight, reiterating the critical urgency of providing the AG’s Office with the tools they need to pursue the suit for compensation.

“I am going to ask for a reconsideration of the vote and I’m working with the Speaker to make that happen so we’ll go from there. I just cannot overemphasize the importance of this and it being expedient,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said.

Meanwhile, Speaker Tina Muna Barnes states that the legislative body is currently in recess, adding that she understands the concerns made by certain senators relative to wanting more discussions on the matter, a request she intends to respect.

“Again I will respect the call of my body, and if there is a move to reconsider working closely with the governor that reconsideration will be made but we are in recess right now and there is a scheduled public hearing on July 9th,” the Speaker said.