On Tuesday, February 20, 2018, Minnesota State Attorney General Lori Swanson announced that the east metropolitan area of Twin Cities is to receive $850 million that will be used for research into improving the quality of drinking water. The announcement came the as jury selection was underway for a trial in the matter of Minnesota v. 3M for decades of polluting local waterways with fluorochemicals. Judge Kevin S. Burke urged the parties to settle the case because a prolonged court battle would not serve the interests of the state’s citizens or company shareholders.
According to the lawsuit, the company was aware that the chemicals, known as PFCs, caused increased rates of cancers of the kidneys and testicles, as well as liver damage, reduced female fertility, growth and learning impairments in children, and thyroid disease. The suit further alleged that, in 1977, 3M withheld information from the public that it had introduced fluorine contamination in human plasma. The state also accused the plaintiff of failing to inform the U.S. Environmental Agency that its chemicals had been present in human blood for 20 years.
In the courtroom after the agreement, 3M representative John Banovetz countered that the company “never believed there was a PFC problem,” but that the company had agreed the settlement to “move past the litigation.” A state study released the day before the trial concluded that there was no health problem. Swanson reiterated that the chemicals had been “put into the ground for a long period of time.”
3M is also facing lawsuits from individuals, towns and water districts across the United States, where there is evidence that PFCs had infiltrated drinking water from sites such as air force bases, where they were used in fire fighting foams, and a leather-tanning facility. Swanson further claimed that 3M had been dumping chemicals near Minneapolis for more than 40 years.