On Tuesday, February 21, just hours before a trial over alleged chemical dumping was scheduled to begin, an $850 million settlement deal was announced between the Minnesota Attorney General and 3M.
3M, the Minnesota-based manufacturing corporation, has come under fire in recent months for its alleged role in multiple cases of water contamination arising from its production of perflurochemicals (PFCs). These chemicals, which were once a main ingredient in the waterproofing chemical Scotchgard, were eventually phased out beginning in the early 2000s due to increased concerns over environmental and health risks.
The Minnesota lawsuit, overseen by Attorney General Lori Swanson, accuses 3M of dumping millions of pounds of waste into the ground and water, contaminating the state’s water supply.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office claims 3M dumped PFCs into the Mississippi River and surrounding areas near its headquarters in St. Paul from the 1950s through the early 2000s. According to the State, 3M knew or should have known that PFCs posed a risk to the environment and residents’ health, accusing the company of conducting a cover-up.
Despite stating that it “does not believe there is a PFC-related public health issue,” 3M agreed to pay $850 million and work with the state to address problems created by the contamination. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, 3M is currently facing at least 11 class action lawsuits in state and federal courts related to PFCs.
As Rockford-area residents are no doubt well aware, 3M has played a large role in the current water contamination crisis in Michigan. It has been reported that 3M provided the chemicals Wolverine Worldwide used to waterproof leather, which were later dumped in unlined landfills and ditches throughout the area.
Wolverine claims that 3M didn’t disclose the health and environmental risks, pointing to a letter from 3M they received in 1999, which states “the currently available evidence does not suggest any human health effect associated with the levels of PFOS found in serum samples of people with occupational exposure."
While there is no way of knowing whether the 3M settlement is an indication of future legal results, the battle is likely just getting started.