3M to pay more than $10B to settle 'forever chemicals' cases

3M headquarters in Maplewood, pictured on May 2.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News file

Updated: June 23, 5:55 a.m.

Maplewood-based 3M on Thursday announced it’s reached a settlement of more than $10 billion to resolve lawsuits over drinking water contaminated by PFAS — so-called “forever chemicals.”

The company said the settlement “resolves current and future drinking water claims” by public water systems. It stems from lawsuits over water contaminated by firefighting foam that contained PFAS; the chemicals don’t break down in the environment and have been linked to serious health issues.

The company’s news release placed the settlement, to be paid over 13 years, at “up to $10.3 billion.” A company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put the amount at $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion.

The settlement still needs to be approved by the court.

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“This is an important step forward for 3M, which builds on our actions that include our announced exit of PFOA and PFOS manufacturing more than 20 years ago, our more recent investments in state-of-the-art water filtration technology in our chemical manufacturing operations, and our announcement that we will exit all PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025,” 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman said in a statement announcing the settlement.

Dallas-based attorney Scott Summy, one of the lead attorneys for those suing 3M and other manufacturers, told the Associated Press that the settlement will help cover costs of filtering PFAS from systems where it’s been detected and testing others.

“The result is that millions of Americans will have healthier lives without PFAS in their drinking water,” Summy said.

The cost of cleansing PFAS from U.S. water systems eventually could go much higher than the sums agreed to in the settlements, Summy acknowledged.

“I’m not sure anyone knows what that ultimate number will be,” he said. “But I do think this is going to make a huge dent in that cost ... and you don’t have to litigate for the next decade or longer.”

3M said the settlement is not an admission of liability, as it faces other legal cases related to forever chemicals.

A federal judge earlier this month granted a motion to delay the start of a civil trial in which a Florida city was seeking damages from 3M over the use of firefighting foam, amid reports that “serious settlement discussions to reach a global resolution of the claims” were underway.

Earlier this month, three other companies — 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.

In 2018, 3M reached an $850 million settlement with the state of Minnesota in a lawsuit over chemical contamination of water in several eastern Twin Cities suburbs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.