The chemical and manufacturing giant 3M reached a $10.3 billion settlement on Thursday with U.S. cities and towns over their claims that the company contaminated drinking water with so-called forever chemicals used in everything from firefighting foam to nonstick coatings.
Under the sweeping settlement, 3M said it would pay out the money over 13 years to any cities, counties and others across the country to test for and clean up perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, in public water supplies.
3M, which is facing about 4,000 lawsuits by states and municipalities for PFAS contamination, did not admit any liability. The company said the settlement covered remediation to water suppliers that detected the chemical “at any level or may do so in the future.”
In a statement, Mike Roman, the chairman and chief executive of 3M, called the agreement “an important step forward for 3M” and said it built on “our announcement that we will exit all PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025.”
The settlement, which requires court approval, would put an end to legal claims including a test case brought by the City of Stuart, Fla., that had been scheduled for a trial before a federal judge on June 5. Mike Mortell, the city manager of Stuart, said the community was “grateful” that the settlement had been reached.
The deal followed a similar agreement with Chemours, DuPont and Corteva, which agreed on June 2 to pay $1.19 billion into a fund that will be used to remove PFAS from public drinking water systems.
PFAS have been linked to liver damage, developmental issues, reduced immune function and cancer, and are referred to as forever chemicals because of how persistently they remain in the human body and the environment. They have also been detected in hundreds of wild animal species around the world.
The synthetic chemicals are so ubiquitous that nearly all Americans, including newborns, carry PFAS in their bloodstream, and as many as 200 million Americans are exposed to PFAS through their tap water, according to a peer-reviewed 2020 study.
Hundreds of communities across the country have sued 3M and other PFAS manufacturers, claiming that their soil and water were contaminated by the chemicals, which are also used in food packaging and a wide variety of other products to make them resistant to heat, water, oil and corrosion.