By Shannon Kelleher and Carey Gillam
Chemical conglomerate 3M is working to settle claims that it is liable for knowingly contaminating the environment with toxic chemicals for decades, delaying what would have been a closely watched bellwether trial in South Carolina.
The trial that had been set to start Monday morning was expected to spotlight long-held secret documents regarding 3M’s knowledge about the dangers of its per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and how it worked with DuPont to conceal risks of PFAS from the public.
On Friday, DuPont and two related companies that also were named as defendants in the litigation said they would pay close to $1.2 billion to settle liability claims brought by public water systems serving the vast majority of the US population.
Bloomberg reported Friday that 3M was considering a $10 billion settlement.
The plaintiff in the bellwether case is the small city of Stuart, Florida, which accused 3M, Dupont and several other companies of contamination its drinking water with two types of PFAS called PFOS and PFOA that were used in “aqueous film-forming foams” (AFFF) the local fire department had used in training exercises.
More than 4,000 other plaintiffs are part of the broader litigation being overseen by the US District Court in Charleston, South Carolina. The multidistrict litigation (MDL) aims to recover the expenses public and private water utilities are incurring to test, monitor and replace water supplies and to install equipment to try to clear the chemicals from tainted systems.
On Sunday, 3M and lawyers representing plaintiffs in the MDL filed a joint motion for a trial continuance, saying “the parties are making material and significant progress toward a resolution…”