3M Co, a prominent chemical company, has recently announced a significant breakthrough in the form of a $10.3 billion settlement with multiple U.S. public water systems. This milestone agreement aims to address claims of water pollution associated with the persistent presence of “forever chemicals.” In a bid to tackle the issue, the settlement will allocate funds over a 13-year duration to cities, towns, and various public water systems, enabling them to conduct comprehensive testing and implement necessary treatment measures to combat per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.
While this settlement represents a substantial step forward, it’s important to note that 3M has not admitted any liability in this matter. The financial support provided will aid public water systems in their efforts to remediate and mitigate PFAS contamination at any level. The impact of this resolution cannot be understated, as Scott Summy, a lead attorney representing the water systems suing 3M, expressed, “We have reached the largest drinking water settlement in American history, which will be used to help filter PFAS from drinking water that is served to the public.” This positive outcome promises healthier lives for millions of Americans by ensuring the absence of PFAS in their drinking water.
Previously, 3M was on the verge of a test trial in a South Carolina federal court, where Stuart, Florida, had filed a lawsuit in 2018. Stuart alleged that 3M had manufactured or sold firefighting foams containing PFAS, leading to soil and groundwater contamination. Seeking over $100 million for filtration and remediation, Stuart’s case was one among thousands of lawsuits filed against 3M and other chemical companies. However, the trial was postponed on the day it was scheduled to commence, providing an opportunity for this comprehensive settlement to be reached.
PFAS, commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” gained their nickname due to their resistance to breakdown in the human body and the environment. These substances are found in a wide range of products, including non-stick cookware and cosmetics. Unfortunately, they have been associated with various health concerns such as cancer, hormonal dysfunction, and environmental degradation. Recognizing the severity of the issue, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified PFAS as an “urgent public health and environmental issue.” In response, the EPA has implemented stricter regulations and, in March, introduced the first-ever national drinking water standards for six PFAS chemicals.
In alignment with growing concerns and increased regulatory measures, 3M made a commitment in December to cease production of PFAS by 2025. This pledge demonstrates the company’s dedication to addressing the issue and aligning with evolving environmental standards. Notably, three other major chemical companies—Chemours Co, DuPont de Nemours Inc, and Corteva Inc—also recently announced an agreement in principle, intending to settle claims amounting to $1.19 billion related to PFAS contamination of U.S. public water systems.
Although the settlement with U.S. public water systems represents a significant milestone, 3M is still confronted with PFAS-related lawsuits from individuals seeking compensation for personal injuries and property damages. Additionally, several U.S. states have filed lawsuits against the company, aiming to recover damages to natural resources like rivers and lakes. These cases were not included in the recent settlement, highlighting the ongoing legal challenges 3M faces in relation to PFAS.