The Boston Globe

Court OKs settlement by 3M over PFAS suit

‘Forever chemicals’ in public drinking water systems

- By Jim Salter

Chemical manufactur­er 3M will begin payments starting in the third quarter to many US public drinking water systems as part of a multibilli­on-dollar settlement over contaminat­ion with potentiall­y harmful compounds used in firefighti­ng foam and several consumer products, the company said.

St. Paul, Minn.-based 3M announced Monday that last year’s lawsuit settlement received final approval from the US District Court in Charleston, S.C.

The agreement called for payouts through 2036. Depending on what additional contaminat­ion is found, the amount paid out will range from $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion.

“This is yet another important step forward for 3M as we continue to deliver on our priorities. The final approval of this settlement and continued progress toward exiting all PFAS manufactur­ing by the end of 2025 will further our efforts to reduce risk and uncertaint­y as we move forward,” 3M’s chairman and chief executive, Mike Roman, said in a news release.

The deal compensate­s water providers for pollution with perand polyfluori­nated substances, known collective­ly as PFAS — a broad class of chemicals used in nonstick and water- and grease-resistant products such as clothing and cookware.

PFAS have been described as “forever chemicals” because they don’t degrade naturally in the environmen­t. They’ve been linked to a variety of health problems, including liver and immune-system damage and some cancers.

The compounds have been detected at varying levels in drinking water nationwide. The Environmen­tal Protection Agency in March 2023 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 3M settlement first announced in June came in a lawsuit by Stuart, Fla., one of about 300 communitie­s that had filed similar suits against companies that produced firefighti­ng foam or the PFAS it contained. The payment will help cover the costs of filtering PFAS from systems.

Some of the settlement money will help additional water systems test for contaminat­ion from PFAS, said Scott Summy, one of the lead attorneys for those suing 3M and other manufactur­ers. They have until June 2026 to apply for compensati­on if contaminat­ion is found.

“That’s great news for American citizens who drink from that water,” Summy said. “It’ll help rid our public drinking water systems of PFAS, and that’s the most important thing about the settlement.”

Also, last June, DuPont de Nemours Inc. and spinoffs Chemours Co. and Corteva Inc. reached a $1.18 billion deal to resolve PFAS complaints by about 300 drinking water providers. Several states, airports, firefighte­r training facilities, and private well owners also have sued.

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