(Adds 3M comment)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, June 20 (Reuters) - New York state sued 3M Co and five other companies to recover the cost of cleaning up environmental contamination caused by toxic chemicals in firefighting foam that they manufactured.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Barbara Underwood said on Wednesday the lawsuit seeks more than $38.8 million plus punitive damages and is the first of its type by a U.S. state.
New York said the use of the foam at five military and civilian airports in the state caused "extensive contamination" to nearby fish, soil and water and increased the risk to people of immune system damage and other health problems.
The companies knew or should have known by the 1970s that the foam, when used as intended, could threaten public health and the environment, the state said.
"New York is working to end the dangerous practices that threaten our natural resources," Cuomo said in a statement.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday evening in New York's Supreme Court in Albany, the state capital.
In an email, 3M spokeswoman Donna Fleming Runyon said the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company "acted responsibly at all times and will defend its record of stewardship" in connection with its manufacture and sale of the foam.
Other defendants include Buckeye Fire Equipment Co, Chemguard Inc, Kidde-Fenwal Inc, National Foam Inc and Tyco Fire Products LP.
The five airports are Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Southampton, Plattsburgh Air Force Base in Plattsburgh and Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome. The Plattsburgh and Griffiss bases have closed.
The case is New York v 3M Co et al, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County, No. 904029-18. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)