February 20, 2018 / 9:54 PM / 5 months ago

3M, Minnesota settle water pollution claims for $850 million

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Industrial group 3M Co and Minnesota’s attorney general have agreed to settle a lawsuit over polluted groundwater, with the company agreeing to grant $850 million to the state for groundwater projects, the attorney’s office said on Tuesday.

Attorney General Lori Swanson had been seeking at least $5 billion in damages from 3M to help clean up the company’s disposal of industrial chemicals in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area over the past 40 years.

The Minnesota-based company said in a statement the grant would enable projects that “support water sustainability” and “improve groundwater recharge” in the Twin Cities. It gave no details of what the projects involved.

Swanson had filed the lawsuit in 2010, alleging 3M had dumped millions of pounds of excess toxic chemicals in areas east of St. Paul beginning in the 1950s, causing higher rates of cancer, premature births and lower fertility.

The company, based in Maplewood, Minnesota, denied the state’s claims, saying the chemicals posed no health risk at their current levels of exposure and that it had not found any adverse health effects among its employees, who are exposed at higher levels than the general population.

The settlement came on the day a jury trial was scheduled to start in the case. Swanson said in a statement she appreciated 3M’s willingness to resolve the matter.

The chemicals at issue, called perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, were made in a 3M plant south-east of St. Paul and used in 3M’s Scotchgard brand products.

3M said it would record a 2018 first-quarter charge of approximately $1.10 to $1.15 per share including legal fees as a result of the settlement. Shares in the company were down 0.6 percent at $235 in extended trading at 2200 GMT.

Swanson said the settlement grant only covered damages to natural resources, adding that her office had no jurisdiction to recover damages for personal injuries.

According to 3M’s latest financial filing in January, the company still faces at least 24 similar groundwater pollution lawsuits filed in courts across the U.S. Some of those complaints include personal injury and property damage claims.

An older generation of PFC compounds, known as PFOA or C-8, commonly used to manufacture non-stick products such as Teflon, has been linked to six illnesses, including testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and thyroid disease.

DuPont and its spin-off Chemours settled some 3,550 personal injury claims arising from C-8 pollution for $671 million last year.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Tom Brown and James Dalgleish

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