PFAS PRODUCERS TO PAY BILLIONS FOR PUBLIC WATER SYSTEMS’ CONTAMINATION CLAIMS
Several major producers of PFAS chemicals agreed to settle a growing number of lawsuits alleging damages from contaminated waters.
Major producers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (“PFAS”) substances agreed to resolve lawsuits against them concerning PFAS contamination of public water systems throughout the country. As part of a recent settlement yet to be approved by the court, 3M would pay $10.3 billion, and Chemours, DuPont, and Corteva would pay $1.19 billion.
PFAS are synthetic, environmentally persistent chemicals. A range of commercial and industrial applications make them common. Examples include firefighting foam, greaseproof food wrapping, nonstick cookware, and many water-repellant fabrics, carpets, and other textiles. Because PFAS do not degrade naturally in the environment, absorbed amounts can remain in water, soil, food, and even bloodstreams for years. Studies have linked PFAS to health problems, such as liver and immune-system damage and some cancers.
The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has recently taken steps to regulate these chemicals. In an article last year, we analyzed a proposed EPA rule that would designate PFAS a “hazardous substance” under the Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and potentially impose significant liability against contaminated wastewater facilities and landfills. More recently, the EPA proposed another rule to minimize the amount of forever chemicals allowed in drinking water.
These proposed rules come amid thousands of lawsuits against PFAS producers. Cities and towns across the country have alleged PFAS-producing corporations contaminated their public water supplies and that the companies were aware of the dangers of PFAS. Other plaintiffs have already brought claims alleging personal injury, cleanup responsibility, diminution in property value, natural-resources damages, and medical-monitoring requirements.
Many chemical companies elected to pay out hefty settlements instead of resolving claims through a lengthy litigation process. Producers are likely to settle more lawsuits in the near term.
While the settlement involving 3M, Chemours, DuPont, and Corteva still needs approval from the court, reports indicate that the settlement proceeds would go to any public water system, as defined in 42 U.S.C § 300f, that either (i) has detected PFAS or (ii) is required to test for PFAS by state or federal law. 3M by far had the largest settlement, creating a fund of $10.3 billion to be paid out over 13 years. 3M also agreed to stop manufacturing PFAS products by 2025, though as part of the settlement arrangement 3M does not admit any liability. The amount 3M and other companies ultimately pay could increase as further state, foreign, and personal injury claims for PFAS-related harms proceed through the various court systems.
Baird Holm LLP attorneys offer wide experience assisting clients in environmental law matters and litigation. Please contact us if you have questions about these settlements or a related matter.
Hannes D. Zetzsche
Matt A. Robinson, Summer Associate
 Bloomberg Law estimates there have been over 6,400 PFAS-related lawsuits filed in federal courts between July 2005 and March 2022. See Companies Face Billions in Damages as PFAS Lawsuits Flood Courts, Bloomberg Law (May 23, 2022), available at https://news.bloomberglaw.com/pfas-project/companies-face-billions-in-damages-as-pfas-lawsuits-flood-courts (last viewed July 3, 2023).
 See e.g. Fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, EPA, available at https://www.epa.gov/dwucmr/fifth-unregulated-contaminant-monitoring-rule (last viewed July 3, 2023).