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3M Co. agrees to pay $55M to settle PFAS contamination case in Michigan

3M headquarters in Maplewood, Minn. (Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
February 24, 2020

3M Co. will pay $55 million to settle a PFAS water contamination lawsuit brought by the Michigan maker of Hush Puppies shoes.

The agreement announced Thursday after the markets closed will “resolve all legal claims” between 3M and Wolverine World Wide Inc. and will be used, 3M said, to address PFAS chemicals found in the environment in Michigan communities near a waste disposal site in Belmont, Mich.

Separately, Wolverine signed a court agreement Thursday agreeing to pay the state of Michigan $69.5 million to settle that state’s PFAS contamination claims against Wolverine. That money will be used to filter water for more than 1,000 homes in Plainfield and Algoma Townships in Michigan. Wolverine did not admit any liability.

The 3M money will help improve water infrastructure and treatment, said John Banovetz, 3M’s chief technology officer.

In January 2018, the state of Michigan sued Wolverine for environmental contamination after PFAS chemicals were found in the soil, groundwater and drinking water near the Belmont waste disposal site that Wolverine used for years. In December 2018, Wolverine sued 3M, alleging that 3M failed to notify customers that PFAS were a risk to the environment.

Wolverine estimated the total environmental remediation costs at $113 million, 3M said.

3M announced the settlement the same day the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its intention to regulate PFOA and PFOS, two of the most prolific PFAS. The EPA will now seek comments on its proposal.

PFAS is a class of chemicals used in everything from firefighter foam to nonstick coating on pans and is made by several companies, including Maplewood-based 3M. Wolverine bought the chemicals for 40 years to waterproof its shoes.

PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they stay in the environment and have been found in soil, groundwater, rivers and military bases across the country.

The 3M settlement is small compared to the $850 million 3M agreed to pay to the state of Minnesota in February 2018 for PFAS contamination found in or near 3M’s factory in Cottage Grove and disposal sites in Cottage Grove, Woodbury, Oakdale and Lake Elmo.

There are more than 186 PFAS-related lawsuits against 3M, which has made the chemicals for roughly 70 years.


© 2020 Star Tribune

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