June 23, 2023
3M Co. will pay at least $10.3 billion for lawsuits over the contamination of US public drinking water systems with potentially harmful compounds used in firefighting foam and a host of consumer products, the company said Thursday.
The deal would compensate water providers for pollution with per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) — a broad class of chemicals used in nonstick, water- and grease-resistant products such as clothing and cookware, and firefighting foam.
The compounds have been detected at varying levels in drinking water around the nation. This March, the EPA proposed strict limits on two common types, PFOA and PFOS, and said it wanted to regulate four others. Water providers would be responsible for monitoring their systems for the chemicals.
The agreement would settle a case that was scheduled for trial earlier this month involving a claim by Stuart, FL, one of about 300 communities that have filed similar suits against companies that produced firefighting foam due to PFAS.
3M chairman Mike Roman said the deal was “an important step forward” that builds on the company’s decision in 2020 to phase out PFOA and PFOS and its investments in “state-of-the-art water filtration technology in our chemical manufacturing operations.” The company, based in St. Paul, MN, will halt all PFAS production by the end of 2025, he said.
The settlement will be paid over 13 years and could reach as high as $12.5 billion, depending on how many public water systems detect PFAS during testing that EPA has required in the next three years, said Dallas-based attorney Scott Summy, one of the lead attorneys for those suing 3M and other manufacturers.
The payment will help cover costs of filtering PFAS from systems where it’s been detected and testing others, he said.
Earlier this month, DuPont, Chemours, and Corteva reached a $1.18 billion deal to resolve PFAS complaints by about 300 drinking water providers. A number of states, airports, firefighter training facilities and private well owners also have sued.
The cases are pending in US District Court in Charleston, SC, where there are thousands of complaints alleging PFAS damages. A trial of a complaint by the city of Stuart, FL, had been scheduled to begin this month but was delayed to allow time for additional settlement negotiations.
Most of the lawsuits have stemmed from firefighter training exercises at airports, military bases, and other sites that repeatedly used foams laced with high concentrations of PFAS, Summy said.
3M said its participation in the settlement “is not an admission of liability” and said if it was rejected in court, “3M is prepared to continue to defend itself.”
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