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3M reaches $10.3B settlement over PFAS in drinking water

June 26, 2023
Learn about the settlement reached to pay more than $10 billion to US public water systems to resolve claims over 3M's contamination of water with PFAS.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager

Following a "raft of litigation" over several decades about 3M's manufacturing of products containing PFAS and an EPA announcement in March that for the first time, the agency proposed enforceable regulations for six such “forever chemicals” in US drinking water, 3M announced last week that it has entered into a broad class resolution to support PFAS remediation for public water suppliers (PWS).

Subject to court approval, the tentative settlement, worth between $10.3 and $12.5 billion, will be the largest water contamination settlement in US history and will benefit US-based PWS nationwide that provide drinking water to a majority of Americans.

Known for their water-resistant and nonstick properties, perfluoralkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—PFAS—are widely used, long-lasting chemicals, components of which break down very slowly over time.

In addition to their persistence in the environment and potential related harmful health effects, thousands of different PFAS chemicals are found in many consumer, commercial, and industrial products, including dental floss. In September 2022, testing done by EHN.org on 39 brands of floss found evidence of the chemicals in a third of the samples, with levels ranging from 11 ppm to 248,900 ppm. The results were part of joint testing on ordinary products for evidence of the chemical, with advocates urging “companies and trade associations like the American Dental Association [to] ‘stop approving of any dental product that contains any forever PFAS compound.’”

According to a 3M press release, the water contamination settlement, subject to court approval:

  • Provides funding for PWS across the country for PFAS treatment technologies without the need for further litigation.
  • Provides funding for eligible PWS that may detect PFAS in the future.
  • Resolves current and future drinking water claims by PWS related to PFOA, PFOS, and all other PFAS, including those that are included as a portion of the Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) multidistrict litigation based in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Provides funding for PWS nationwide to conduct testing for PFAS.

"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," said 3M chairman and CEO Mike Roman.

You might also be interested in: 3M to stop producing PFAS by 2025

The press release also states that “This agreement is not an admission of liability” and that “if the agreement is not approved by the court or certain agreed terms are not fulfilled, 3M is prepared to continue to defend itself in the litigation.”

Some material referenced in this story originally ran as 3M Will Toss $10 Billion Into Water Contamination Settlement on Chemical Processing, an Endeavor Business Media partner site.