By Shannon Kelleher
A federal court on Tuesday granted preliminary approval for a “landmark” $12.5 billion payout by chemical conglomerate 3M to resolve claims in a class action lawsuit and help public drinking water providers remove toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from communities around the United States.
The court approval comes a week after DuPont and related companies received preliminary approval for a $1.185 billion settlement that similarly addresses class action claims over toxic PFAS contamination in US water systems. Together, the deals mark the largest drinking water settlements in history.
Both settlements relate to water system contamination by PFAS in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), used as a firefighting agent and widely used by military and civilian airports as well as municipal fire departments.
The AFFF litigation is one aspect of more extensive and ongoing litigation against 3M and DuPont that blame the companies for knowingly contaminating the environment with PFAS for decades despite evidence that the substances pose a risk to human health. Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the litigation have uncovered internal corporate records dating back to the 1960s revealing corporate concerns about PFAS that were not shared with the public or regulators.
“These new proposed settlements for public water providers in the AFFF litigation represent not only historic amounts of potential recoveries for victims of PFAS contamination, but also reflect the decades of work our team has undertaken to make sure the information these companies had – but withheld – as to the threat these ‘forever chemicals’ pose to human health and the environment is finally revealed to the public, and that the proper parties are held financially responsible for the enormous damage caused,” plaintiffs’ attorney Rob Bilott, who has led PFAS litigation for more than 20 years, said in a press release.