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3M to Pay $850 Million to Settle Water Contamination Lawsuit

Many cases settle on the courthouse steps, but not many of those settle for $850 million.

Even fewer pay up in two weeks. And who pays it all in one lump sum? That would be 3M in a settlement with the State of Minnesota.

The settlement is reportedly the largest in the state's environmental case history. And it all started with drops of water.

PFC Pollution

After finding traces of perfluorinated chemicals in groundwater, the state sued 3M in 2010. The state knew the company had disposed of the chemicals in designated sites for years, but didn't know the extent of the pollution.

"We think the settlement will help solve a problem in Minnesota," said state Attorney General Lori Swanson. "It's been a problem that has been a long time in the making for many decades."

The settlement funds will be used to clean up and safeguard drinking water in the eastern suburbs of St. Paul. It will also go to restore habitats and recreation areas such as fishing piers, wetlands or trails.

3M, which said it disposed of the chemicals legally, admitted no liability in the settlement.

"No Public Health Issue"

Days before trial was to begin in the case, the Minnesota health department released a report that 3M's sites did not lead to any increase in cancer, low birth-weight, or premature births.

The report helped resolve the plaintiff's case, which had sought $5 billion in damages. John Banovetz, the company's chief technology officer and senior vice president of research and development, said there was no public health issue.

'We are proud of our record of environmental stewardship, and while we do not believe there is a PFC-related public health issue, 3M will work with the state on these important projects,' he said.

Meanwhile, an environmental group is suing the company for releasing similar chemicals into the Tennessee River. Trial is set to start there in March 2019.

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