Economy

3M Agrees to Pay $850 Million to Settle Minnesota Water Contamination Lawsuit

3M Agrees to Pay $850 Million to Settle Minnesota Water Contamination Lawsuit

It's unusual to see a natural-resources suit raise human health issues, said Karen Bradshaw, an associate professor at Arizona State University who tracks such litigation.

"We think the settlement will help solve a problem in Minnesota", Swanson said.

A judge halted jury selection Tuesday in the trial of Minnesota's $5 billion lawsuit against manufacturer 3M Co., and both sides planned an afternoon announcement signaling a possible settlement.

"Over the past several years, the Minnesota Department of Health has made public its conclusions about proven effects of PFCs that differ from the separate opinion provided last fall to the Attorney General".

The state claims the chemicals seeped into the ground water, thereby polluting the drinking water for thousands living in communities like Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove and Oakdale. Swanson said she believes it is the largest environmental case in state history.

The state says the money will be used to clean up and safeguard drinking water in the eastern suburbs of St. Paul.

The case focuses on the company's disposal of chemicals once used to make Scotchgard fabric protector and other products. The state and 3M reached a deal three years later requiring the company to spend millions to clean up landfills and provide clean drinking water to affected communities. These projects will also result in habitat and recreation improvements, such as fishing piers, trails, and open space preservation. The state accused 3M of contaminating groundwater as it disposed of PFCs over decades.

"This settlement reflects our commitment to acting with integrity and conducting business in a sustainable way that is in the best interest of all who live and work in Minnesota", 3M's senior vice president John Banovetz said in a statement.

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The company stopped making PFCs in 2002 after negotiating with the Environmental Protection Agency, which said the chemicals could pose long-term risks to human health and the environment. As a result, about 15 million people learned their drinking water wasn't considered safe for long-term consumption.

The Star Tribune reported that the EPA's advisory sent communities nationwide scrambling to install technology to treat water.

According to 3M's latest financial filing in January, the company still faces at least 24 similar groundwater pollution lawsuits filed in courts across the U.S. Some of those complaints include personal injury and property damage claims.

PFCs are the miracle substance created by 3M decades ago that formed the basis for consumer products like Teflon, Scotchgard and Gore-Tex.

In another lawsuit, the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority, on behalf of its customers, is suing 3M, Dyneon, and Daikin America, alleging their actions caused the contamination of the system's water.

The long-awaited trial begins Tuesday in Minneapolis.

Under the settlement, the MPCA and/or the DNR will use the grant to "enhance the quality, quantity and sustainability of the drinking water in the East Metropolitan Area".

A Tennessee Riverkeeper official said previous year that case is slated for trial sometime in 2019.


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