3M set to pay US water utilities $10B as PFAS rule nears for drinking water

3M PFAS lawsuit finalized
3M said the company’s manufacturing with PFAS will cease by 2025. Photo credit: wolterke, stock.adobe.com

3M’s $10.3-billion PFAS settlement with U.S. public water suppliers has been finalized by the U.S. District Court in Charleston, South Carolina, giving water systems financial resources to remove the “forever chemicals” under a forthcoming rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The settlement will impact some 12,000 water systems across the U.S., which claimed damages for PFAS-related testing and monitoring costs, as well as costs for designing and operating treatment systems to reduce PFAS levels. 

The agreement called for payouts from 3M through 2036, according to the court approval on March 29.  

On March 14, 2023, EPA announced the proposed National Primary Drinking Water Regulation for six PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA, commonly known as GenX Chemicals), perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS).  

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The EPA proposed a 4 parts per trillion (ppt) limit on the two most well-known PFAS: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in drinking water. 

A final rule from the EPA on the national regulation is expected this spring.  

The settlement will have two groups. Phase One recipients who detected PFAS in their water sources as of June 22, 2023, and Phase Two recipients who have or will detect PFAS as they comply with monitoring the EPA’s unregulated contaminant monitoring rule 5 (UCMR-5), which requires utilities monitor water for 29 PFAS. 

PFAS, which include a group of more than 4,700 human-made substances, are known as “forever chemicals,” given the slow rate at which they break down in the environment. They are also considered known carcinogens. 

3M makes some 60,000 products under several brands, including adhesives, abrasives, laminates, passive fire protection, personal protective equipment, window films, and paint protection films. 

The company’s manufacturing with PFAS will cease by 2025. 

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