Johnson Controls sets aside $140 million for Marinette cleanup

CFO says effort will be largest environmental project in coming years

Johnson Controls Inc. headquarters
The Johnson Controls Inc. operational headquarters in Glendale.

Last updated on August 2nd, 2019 at 06:50 pm

Johnson Controls International plc has set aside $140 million to address to environmental cleanup of human-made chemicals at its facilities in Marinette, Wisconsin.

The company disclosed the environmental charge during its third quarter earnings call Wednesday. The reserve will cover environmental remediation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS used in firefighting foams produced and tested at facilities in the Marinette area since the 1960s.

Brian Stief, chief financial officer of Johnson Controls, said the cleanup in Marinette would be “the largest one that we will manage over the next several years.”

The Department of Natural Resources asked Tyco to sample groundwater in the area for PFAS in 2016 prior to the company’s merger with Johnson Controls. The department says the company had discovered PFAS in water sampling as early as 2013 but did not formally report the finding until 2016.

The company and state are now working together to identify areas where PFAS were disposed and where the contamination has spread, requiring interim and long-term remedial actions.

The department has also referred Johnson Controls to the state Department of Justice for not reporting the presence of PFAS. Research suggests certain PFAS may increase cholesterol levels, risk of thyroid disease, risk for high blood pressure in pregnant women and decrease female fertility.

George Oliver, chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson Controls, said the company would be able to defend itself against any civil litigation.

“Tyco and Chemguard make life saving firefighting foam, PFAS chemicals,” Oliver said. “They purchased the compounds that contain trace amounts of PFAS which they then blend to make the foam. And the fire fighting foam is made to exacting military standards. So majority of the foam at issue is specified and used by the U.S. government and military and therefore subject to the government contractors defense. And Tyco and Chemguard have always acted responsibly in producing these firefighting foams and we feel very confident in our ability to defend these claims.”

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.