The BASF Settlement: A Step Forward in Addressing PFAS Contamination in Public Water Systems

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), often referred to as "forever chemicals" due to their persistence in the environment, have become a major concern for public health and water quality. These man-made chemicals have been linked to various health problems and are increasingly being detected in drinking water supplies.


A recent development in the ongoing legal battle against PFAS contamination brings both progress and important considerations for water professionals. On May 20, 2024, BASF Corp., the North American arm of the German chemical giant BASF SE, reached a $316.5 million settlement agreement to resolve lawsuits alleging their role in PFAS contamination.


The crux of the settlement lies in its allocation. The primary portion of $312.5 million is designated to address PFAS contamination in public water systems. This offers a glimmer of hope for water treatment facilities struggling with the costly task of PFAS remediation and adhering to stricter regulations set by environmental agencies.


The lawsuit against BASF stemmed from firefighting foams manufactured by their former subsidiary, Ciba, which they acquired in 2008. While BASF divested the fluorosurfactant business responsible for the foam production to another party (Chemguard) in 2003, the settlement highlights the principle of corporate accountability, holding them responsible for the historical actions of their subsidiary.


It's important to note that the settlement does not equate to an admission of guilt by BASF or Ciba. They maintain their stance of innocence while agreeing to the financial resolution. This aspect of the settlement reflects the ongoing legal complexities surrounding PFAS contamination.


The BASF settlement is not an isolated incident. It joins a growing trend of similar agreements within the multidistrict litigation (MDL) filed in 2018 regarding AFFF and PFAS contamination. Major chemical companies like 3M, DuPont, Chemours, Corteva, and Tyco with Chemguard have also reached settlements in the past year.


This series of settlements underscores the growing public awareness and legal focus on PFAS contamination. Water treatment facilities should prioritize staying updated on the latest PFAS regulations and best practices for detection, treatment, and remediation.


The allocated funds from the BASF settlement, and potentially from similar settlements in the future, could serve as a source of financial aid for public water systems burdened by PFAS issues. 


The ongoing legal action surrounding firefighting foams and PFAS contamination signifies the complexity of this issue. You can learn more about the settlement here

Posted in


Shaina Shay is an accomplished water professional with over a decade of experience in water policy, management, conservation, and community outreach. Her passion for pragmatic information sharing drives her work across the U.S. and Australia, where she has held roles with investor-owned utilities and as a senior water market specialist. Shaina's commitment to the field is reflected in her leadership positions within the American Water Works Association (AWWA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Southern Arizona Water Users Association (SAWUA).