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

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

Known for Scotch tape and Post-it notes, the company said Tuesday it would pledge 850 million dollars to invest in a state fund for "water quality and sustainability".

The $5 billion lawsuit stemmed from 3M-made Perfluorinated chemicals - known as PFCs - the company used in the popular household product Scotchguard until it phased it out in the early 2000s.

John Banovetz, 3M's senior vice president of research and development, addressed that question in a prepared statement: "While we have never believed there is a PFC-related health issue, this agreement allows us to move past this litigation and work together with the state on activities and projects to benefit the environment and our communities".

The company denies it did anything wrong, insisting it was acting legally at the time.

State Attorney General Lori Swanson filed the complaint just before year end in 2010.

"We're pleased with the settlement". Swanson said there will be a working group likely comprised of involved municipalities and agencies to determine where the money would be best spent. "And we are very hopeful the settlement can help fix that".

Attorney General Lori Swanson announced the settlement Tuesday, a few hours after jury selection was halted on the day the trial was scheduled to begin. The deal has been in the works for weeks, she said, with negotiations lasting through early Tuesday morning.

Swanson said 3M will pay the state in one lump sum within the next 15 days.

Under terms of the agreement, the funds will come in the form of a grant to be used in the east metro for drinking water and water sustainability projects.

The money from 3M will go toward remedying the problems caused by PFCs in the east metro, Swanson said, which could include constructing new wells, connecting people on private wells to municipal water sources, or cleaning up existing water supplies.

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Grant money will also be used for habitat and recreation improvements, such as fishing piers, trails and open space preservation.

In a statement regarding the settlement, 3M denied PFCs posed a public health issue. The company has stated that at the time they did not know the chemicals were harmful.

"I am also mindful that this settlement comes at the expense of a great Minnesota company, 3M, whose many positive contributions to our state and our citizens greatly exceed these unfortunate circumstances".

The lawsuit was centered on 3M's disposal of perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, and their compounds.

The company says it will record a first quarter charge of about $1.10 to $1.15 per share to include legal fees related to the lawsuit. Along with Scotchgard, the chemicals were used in fire retardants, paints, nonstick cookware and other products.

3M stopped making the chemicals in 2002, but two years later, traces of it were found in groundwater.

The reduction of health-based values last May renewed fears in the east metro area that 3M's chemicals may have caused higher instances of cancer and other adverse health effects.

The state is seeking $5 billion in damages from 3M for dumping the PFCs that have leached into the groundwater across the east metro, making it the state's largest-ever environmental lawsuit.

In November, Minnesota said it had found people suffering numerous health problems including cancer and premature births. The Star Tribune reported that in 2016, the EPA drastically reduced the recommended maximum levels of PFC concentrations for drinking water.

At least two dozen lawsuits related to PFCs have been filed against 3M around the country, including one filed last week in MA over water contamination blamed on firefighting foam.

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