(Reuters) — 3M Co . has reached a $10.3 billion settlement with a slew of U.S. public water systems to resolve water pollution claims linked to “forever chemicals,” the chemical company announced Thursday.
The company said the settlement would provide the funds over a 13-year period to cities, towns and other public water systems to test and treat contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
3M, which faces thousands of lawsuits over PFAS contamination, did not admit liability and said the money will help support cleanup at public water systems that detect PFAS “at any level.”
“We have reached the largest drinking water settlement in American history, which will be used to help filter PFAS from drinking water served to the public,”; Scott Summy, a lead attorney for the water systems suing 3M, said in a statement. “The result is that millions of Americans will have healthier lives without PFAS in their drinking water.”
3M had been scheduled to go to trial in South Carolina federal court earlier this month in a lawsuit brought by Stuart, Florida. The judge overseeing the case delayed the trial on the morning it was due to begin.
Stuart alleged in his 2018 lawsuit that the company manufactured or sold firefighting foam containing PFAS that contaminated local soil and groundwater and sought more than $100 million for filtration and cleanup. It was one of more than 4,000 lawsuits against 3M and other chemical companies.
Called “forever chemicals” because they don’t easily break down in the human body or the environment, PFAS are used in a wide range of products from non-stick cookware to cosmetics and have been linked to cancer, hormonal dysfunction and environmental damage.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has called PFAS an “urgent public health and environmental issue.”
The EPA has taken several steps in recent years to tighten regulations on the chemicals, and in March announced the first-ever national drinking water standards for six of the chemicals.
3M in December set a deadline of 2025 to stop producing PFAS.
Three other major chemical companies — Chemours Co., DuPont de Nemours Inc. and Corteva Inc. — announced earlier this month that they reached a $1.19 billion agreement in principle to resolve claims they contaminated U.S. public water systems with PFAS.
3M still faces PFAS-related lawsuits filed by individuals claiming personal injury and property damage, as well as by states for damage to natural resources such as rivers and lakes that were not part of the settlement.