Plaintiff Sues United States After Air Force Base Trainings Cause Contaminated Groundwater

Plaintiff Mary J. O’Brien filed suit against defendant United States on Monday in the District of Kansas. O’Brien’s lawsuit alleges that her property’s only source of water has been contaminated by the activities of the United States Air Force.

O’Brien is a resident of Derby, Kansas, where she owns 2.5 acres of real estate. The only source of water for the residence is a well, which reaches into the regional aquifer. 1.5 miles from the property is the McConnell Air Force base, which is run by the United States Department of the Air Force.

The McConnell Air Force base, the complaint claimed, has various training areas, all of which use Aerosol fire-fighting foam. The foam is made up of two different compounds – perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Each of these compounds is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), since if they enter a water system, they have the capacity to “cause human health effects to system users if they are ingested above a specified level for a long period of time,” per court documents.

O’Brien details in the complaint that her groundwater is contaminated by the compounds at twice the advisory level of the EPA. According to the complaint, in September 2020, the United States Department of the Air Force informed O’Brien of their probable role in the contamination yet refused to tell her how long the water had been contaminated.

Since the defendant is responsible for the contamination, they provide her with seven three-gallon jugs of water per month. O’Brien still must use the contaminated water for household purposes, such as washing dishes or showering; the complaint explains that the defendant is aware of the continual use.

Further, O’Brien asserts that the defendant is aware that “a developer next door to her property has authorized connection to city water.” She describes that they are discouraging this connection because they do not want to pay for the alternative water source.

The complaint concludes by noting that the contaminated groundwater ruined the value of the property on top of causing “annoyance, inconvenience, and loss of peace of mind to the plaintiff.” O’Brien is seeking judgement in the amount of $350,000 in addition to other costs and relief.

The plaintiff is represented in the litigation by Depew Gillen Rathbun & McInteer, LC.