A group of 22 states and U.S. territories has taken action to block a proposed $10.3 billion settlement with 3M Co. over water pollution caused by “forever chemicals.”
Led by California and including states like Texas, New York, and the District of Columbia, the group filed a motion opposing the settlement in a South Carolina federal court, where numerous lawsuits against 3M and other companies over per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are being litigated.
The proposed settlement aims to provide funds over a 13-year period to public water systems for testing and treating PFAS contamination.
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However, the states argue that the deal falls short in holding 3M accountable for the damages caused by these chemicals, which have been linked to cancers, hormonal dysfunction, and environmental harm. PFAS are commonly found in products such as firefighting foam, non-stick cookware, and cosmetics.
A spokesperson for 3M stated that the proposed settlement addresses remediation and testing without requiring future litigation on the matter. While it is not uncommon for large settlements to face objections, 3M will work cooperatively to address concerns raised by the states.
Scott Summy, a lead attorney involved in negotiating the settlement on behalf of U.S. water systems, reassured that initial oppositions to significant settlements are common, and they will address the issues raised by the states.
The states’ main concerns include the requirement for public water systems to decide whether to opt into the settlement without knowing the amount they would receive and potential shifts in liability for future health concerns caused by PFAS onto the water systems themselves.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta emphasized that the proposed settlement, in its current form, fails to adequately account for the damage inflicted by 3M in various communities.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who is overseeing the cases in South Carolina, will need to approve the settlement.
3M has been facing thousands of lawsuits related to PFAS contamination. The settlement does not include claims related to personal injury or property damage caused by PFAS.
Earlier this month, three New York State cities also moved to block the settlement, expressing concerns that it could reduce the amount of money available to clean up PFAS contamination at superfund sites nationwide.
PFAS have been identified as an “urgent public health and environmental issue” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to their persistence in the human body and the environment.
The EPA has taken steps to tighten regulations for PFAS, and in March, it announced the first-ever national drinking water standards for six of these chemicals.
3M has set a 2025 deadline to cease producing PFAS.
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