3M Settles Pollution Claims for $850 Million
US Industrial group 3M has agreed to pay $850 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the state of Minnesota over polluted groundwater. State Attorney General Lori Swanson had been seeking at least $5 billion in damages from the company to help foot the bill for what she said was four decades of industrial chemicals dumped in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area.
Without providing details, the state said it plans to use the money from the fine to finance projects that “support water sustainability” and “improve groundwater recharge.” According to Swanson, the settlement only covers damages to natural resources, as the attorney general’s office has no jurisdiction to recover damages for personal injuries.
The state’s lawsuit filed in 2010 alleged that 3M had dumped “millions of pounds of excess toxic chemicals” in areas east of St. Paul beginning in the 1950s, and this had led to higher rates of cancer, premature births and lower fertility.
3M has consistently denied the claims, insisting that the chemicals, in the main perfluorinated compounds, (PFCs) used in its Scotchgard-brand fabric protection products, pose no health risk at their current levels of exposure. The company said it had not found any adverse health effects among its employees, who are exposed at higher levels than the general population.
According to the news agency Reuters, the settlement came on the day a jury was scheduled to start deliberation in the case.
3M said it would record a 2018 first-quarter charge of approximately $1.10 -$1.15 per share including legal fees as a result of the settlement. The company is said to be still facing at least 24 similar groundwater pollution lawsuits filed in courts across the US, with some, including personal injury and property damage claims.