3M Reaches $10.3 Billion Settlement in “Forever Chemicals” Lawsuit

June 23, 2023

Chemical manufacturer 3M said Thursday it would pay $10.3 billion to settle a lawsuit over “forever chemicals” in drinking water systems.

The deal would pay water providers in cities, towns and other public water systems over a 13-year period in order to test and treat contaminations from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known collectively as PFAS. These chemicals have been used since the 1940s in such products as non-stick pans, food packaging, water-repellant sports gear, stain-resistant carpeting and cosmetics.

PFAS are referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down naturally in the environment. They’ve been linked to numerous health problems, including liver damage, immune system damage and some cancers.

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed limiting  “forever chemicals” in U.S. drinking water to the lowest level that testing can detect. The Biden Administration said it would be “the first-ever national drinking water standard” for PFAS.

The agreement reached with 3M aims to settle a case that was scheduled for trial earlier this month. It involved a claim by Stuart, Florida, one the communities that filed similar suits against companies that produced either firefighting foam or the PFAS it contained.

Altogether, 3M is facing about over 4,000 lawsuits by states and municipalities over PFAS contamination.

3M chairman Mike Roman said the deal was “an important step forward” that builds on the company’s decision in 2020 to phase out “forever chemicals” PFOA and PFOS. The company is also investing in what Roman called “state-of-the-art water filtration technology in our chemical manufacturing operations.”

3M is set to halt all production of PFAS chemicals by 2025, Roman said.

The company did not admit any liability in its settlement. The deal, though, covered remediation to water suppliers that detected the chemicals “at any level or may do so in the future.”

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