SLE helps obtain largest water contamination settlement in history

In collaboration with a small group of firms leading the aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) multi-district litigation efforts, SL Environmental law group (SLE) announced a tentative settlement, worth between US$10.3 and $12.5bn, by US multinational conglomerate 3M to settle lawsuits over ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water supplies.

If approved by the court, it will be the largest water contamination settlement in US history and a step toward ensuring that people across the country have access to safe drinking water. News of the 3M settlement comes on the heels of the announcement of a similar settlement on behalf of US chemical company DuPont and related companies, which would create a separate $1.185bn fund for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) impacts to water systems.

“Through its efforts on behalf of water systems across the country impacted by PFAS, SLE is proud to have brought about this settlement with 3M — a step towards heralding a new era of corporate accountability,” said Ken Sansone, partner at SLE. “The 3M settlement represents a stride toward securing funds for water systems across the country to offset the high costs of PFAS contamination. We are dedicated to ensuring taxpayers are not bearing the burden of costly remediation efforts and that those who polluted are held accountable.”

In 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the fifth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR 5), which added 29 PFAS compounds to the list of regulated contaminants. Public water systems serving between 3,300 and 10,000 people are required to complete sampling no later than 2025, and systems with detectable levels of PFAS in at least one supply source would be eligible for a share of the up to $12.5bn in funds provided in the proposed class action settlement.

Sansone added, “The latest proposed EPA regulations set an MCL of 4 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA, and low levels for other PFAS compounds. At these concentrations, the impact on drinking water providers will be significant. We would encourage water systems that have detected PFAS, at any level, to look carefully at the proposed class action settlements. A law firm with experience in this area will be critical [to] navigate the process.”