3M and several municipal water agencies in the U.S. have reached a $10.3 billion settlement to resolve claims that the company’s per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS chemicals) polluted the water supply, Reuters reported.
The settlement, announced June 22, will provide the funds over 13 years to public water systems to test for PFAS chemicals and treat contamination of the synthetic compounds, known as “forever chemicals.”
As part of the settlement, 3M did not admit liability. although the company is facing thousands of similar PFAS contamination lawsuits.
PFAS chemicals are ubiquitous in consumer products, including fast-food wrappers, cosmetics, and non-stick cookware, and do not easily break down in the human body or the environment. Their extremely long half-lives and tendency to leach into soil, water, and organisms is what branded these chemicals as “forever chemicals.”
"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," Scott Summy, a lead attorney for the water systems suing 3M, said in a statement, per Reuters. "The result is that millions of Americans will have healthier lives without PFAS in their drinking water."
The settlement does not resolve PFAS contamination lawsuits filed by U.S. states over claims of environmental degradation to bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and streams. The company also faces PFAS personal injury and property-damage lawsuits filed by individuals.
Earlier in June, 3M was scheduled to defend itself in a bellwether PFAS water contamination lawsuit filed by a municipal water company in Stuart, FL. The test trial was to be held in a South Carolina federal court but was delayed by the judge the morning it was set to begin because a settlement was “imminent.”
The city of Stuart, FL, which filed its lawsuit against 3M in 2018, alleged that the source of the water contamination was firefighting foams. The city sought over $100 million for environmental remediation. Lawsuits against 3M and other chemical companies have numbered in the thousands.