News Feature | December 7, 2017

Dormant PFC Lawsuit Against 3M Is Reignited

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

3M.Reg

A long-gestating lawsuit between Minnesota and the conglomerate 3M over perfluorinated compound (PFC) contamination now appears ready to move forward.

The lawsuit was filed years ago and has been delayed ever since. It stems from findings by a Harvard University researcher that 3M knew about the potential health risks that the chemicals it dumped into landfills posed for drinking water supplies since the 1970s, according to the Star Tribune. Furthermore, the suit asserts that 3M purposely avoided doing any research that would have provided more information.

“A dispute over health risks, contaminated drinking water and pollution of the Mississippi River is the crux of the lawsuit [Minnesota Attorney General Lori] Swanson filed to make the company pay for what her experts estimate is $5 billion in damage to Minnesota public resources,” the Star Tribune reported. “After years of delay, the eight-year-old suit is finally set for trial in February.”

For its part, 3M finds the claims to be unfounded.

“3M legal counsel has argued the chemicals are not dangerous at levels found in the local environment and the lawsuits lack merit,” reported Decatur Daily.

However, Minnesota is not alone in charging that PFC contamination is the fault of negligent manufacturers and that they have put consumers at risk.

“The state’s lawsuit is one of many pending against 3M and other manufacturers over PFCs, a blockbuster invention that was used in Teflon and Scotchgard and became among the most widely used chemicals in the world,” per the Star Tribune. “Earlier this year DuPont settled hundreds of personal injury suits for a total of $671 million for contaminating drinking water around its Teflon plant in West Virginia. Last year, the city of Lake Elmo sued 3M to recoup cleanup costs to its drinking water system.”

PFCs have been found to lead to cancer and other health complications. One resident living near Lake Elmo embodies the health issues that proponents against PFCs point to in suits like this.

“Gary Paulson has always wished he knew more about the toxic chemicals that once leached into his well from a landfill 1,000 feet from his Lake Elmo home,” according to the Star Tribune. “At 71, he has survived for bouts of cancer and mused often about neighbors who also fell ill over the years.”

To read more about PFC issues visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Entanglement," Jim Denham, 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/