3M Reaches $10.3 Billion Settlement in ‘Forever Chemicals’ Suits

Chemicals and manufacturing giant 3M on Thursday settled a $10.3 billion settlement with U.S. cities and towns over claims it polluted drinking water with so-called permanent chemicals used in everything from firefighting foam to non-stick coatings. Reached.

Under this comprehensive settlement, 3M will fund cities, counties and others nationwide for 13 years to test and clean up perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (known as PFAS) in public water supplies. announced that it will pay

3M faces nearly 4,000 lawsuits from states and local governments over PFAS contamination and has not admitted any liability. The company said the settlement covers remediation against water suppliers that have detected chemicals “that may be detected at any level or in the future.”

3M Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman said in a statement that the agreement was “an important step forward for 3M” and that it was “announcement by the company that it will exit all PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025.” said it was based on

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, stays legal claims, including a test case filed by the City of Stewart, Florida, which was due to be heard before a federal judge on June 5. City manager Mike Motel said Stuart said the community was “grateful” that a settlement had been reached.

The deal follows similar agreements with Chemours, DuPont and Corteva that agreed on June 2 to pay $1.19 billion to a fund that will be used to remove PFAS from public drinking water systems. It was followed.

PFAS are associated with liver damage, developmental problems, weakened immune systems, and cancer, and are called permanent chemicals because they persist in the human body and the environment. They have also been detected in hundreds of species of wildlife around the world.

Synthetic chemicals are so ubiquitous that almost every American, including newborns, carry PFAS into the bloodstreamAs many as 200 million Americans are exposed to PFAS through tap water, according to a peer-reviewed paper. 2020 study.

Hundreds of communities across the country are suing 3M and other PFAS manufacturers, claiming their soil and water are contaminated with chemicals. The chemical is also used in food packaging and many other products to make them resistant to heat, water and oil. and corrode.

In one of those lawsuits, the city of Stewart sued 3M and several others in federal court, alleging that the city’s water supply was contaminated with firefighting foam containing PFAS that was used for decades in training the city’s fire department. claimed.

But as 3M and the plaintiffs moved closer to a settlement, they asked a federal judge in South Carolina to stay the trial so they could reach an agreement instead. The judge gave the parties up to 21 days to reach an agreement.

Mr. Motel, who was Mr. Stuart’s former city attorney, said the settlement would go a long way in helping cities and towns deal with PFAS water pollution, but that much of the cleanup costs would be borne by local taxpayers. said in a previous interview.

He said Stuart closed and replaced a well that was polluting the local water supply in 2016, but it still costs to clean it up. He said the city had estimated the damage and removal costs for Stuart alone at between $100 million and $120 million.

“I don’t think we’ll ever get this close to the city,” said Motel. “So I don’t think it’s possible to make us perfect.”

Brunswick County, North Carolina, spent nearly $1 billion after the discovery of massive PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear watershed and was still incurring about $2.9 million in annual costs. 2021 study reveals. Orange County, California, also estimates that the infrastructure needed to reduce PFAS levels in drinking water could cost $1 billion.

The settlement will require the approval of a federal judge in South Carolina, who oversees so-called multi-district litigation, as well as the signatures of plaintiffs. Judges also have to approve fee claims from dozens of law firms representing plaintiffs in litigation. It is not uncommon for the plaintiff’s attorney to get her 30 percent of the settlement money.

In a statement, 3M said it will continue to address other PFAS lawsuits “through court defense and negotiated settlements as appropriate.”

Researchers Try to Quantify Health Damage from PFASs in the U.S.: 2022 Study Finds cost of treating illness We believe the amount attributable to PFAS exposures is $62.6 billion. And when the country last year proposed a rule to strengthen drinking water standards for PFAS, the Environmental Protection Agency said $533 million annually in improvements in cardiovascular health, $300 million in reductions in renal cell cancer, $300 million in It estimated a $178 million benefit in reducing low birth rates. Weight births in the United States.

Analysts at research firm Morningstar estimate that 3M’s total liabilities related to PFAS could balloon to as much as $30 billion after factoring in state, foreign and personal injury claims.

PFAS since the EPA announced that the government would for the first time propose regulations requiring near-zero concentrations of chemicals in drinking water after the EPA determined that exposure to almost any amount of the chemical was unsafe. Cleanup efforts are becoming more urgent.

Some industry groups argued that the Biden administration set an impossible standard that cost manufacturers and municipal water agencies billions of dollars in damages. Industry needs to stop releasing chemicals into waterways, and water utilities need to test and remove PFAS chemicals. They warned that communities with limited resources would be hit hardest by the new rules.

Matthew Goldstein contributed to the report.

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