3M [MMM:US] has received preliminary approval for a USD10.3bn settlement aimed at resolving claims made by U.S. public water providers regarding the contamination of drinking water with toxic perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as reported by Reuters on August 29. This agreement comes shortly after 22 U.S. states and territories withdrew their objections to the deal. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston, South Carolina, has deemed the settlement fair and reasonable for moving forward. The settlement pertains to hundreds of lawsuits against 3M, based in Minnesota, concerning pollution caused by PFAS. Often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistent nature, PFAS are linked to health issues like cancer and hormonal disruptions. The settlement, announced in June, involves funds allocated over a 13-year span to cities, towns, and public water providers for testing and treating PFAS contamination.
The deal follows legal disputes related to firefighting foams containing PFAS that seeped into groundwater and waterways. While 3M has not admitted wrongdoing, the company stated the settlement would aid remediation efforts. The settlement’s final approval will be determined in a “fairness hearing” in February, during which any remaining objections will be considered. The revised agreement now allows water providers to estimate their expected payouts before committing, extends the decision period for opting out of the deal, and clarifies that states can pursue separate lawsuits over PFAS contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has underscored the urgency of addressing PFAS as a public health and environmental concern. 3M has set a deadline of 2025 to cease PFAS production.