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MN AG announces $850M settlement with 3M

Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday but was suddenly called off. A settlement was announced around 3:30 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS - An $850 million settlement has been announced in the state's $5 billion lawsuit against 3M for the company's disposal of PFCs in the east metro.

According to a press release, those funds "will be used to finance projects which involve drinking water and the water sustainability" in the area affected by the company's disposal of chemicals.

The settlement comes after the opening day of the trial -- which was anticipated to be the most expensive environmental lawsuit in Minnesota history -- was suddenly halted. Jury selection had not yet begun when officials made the announcement there would be no trial but an announcement would come Tuesday afternoon.

For context, 3M's average annual revenue is about $30 billion, and its average annual profits are about $5 billion, according to Forbes.

The state's lawsuit against 3M, the multinational conglomerate corporation based in Maplewood, asked the company to pay $5 billion to clean up environmental damage caused by the dumping of chemicals.

According to the lawsuit, 3M knowingly dumped massive quantities of dangerous chemicals, known as PFCs, at four dumpsites in the east metro, starting in the 1950s. The chemicals were used to make household items like nonstick cookware and stain repellent.

In 2002, 3M stopped producing PFCs.

The state claims the chemicals seeped into the ground water, thereby polluting the drinking water for thousands living in communities like Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove and Oakdale.

Attorney General Lori Swanson's office claims the water contamination led to an increased rate of birth defects, low birth weights, cancer and other illnesses for residents of that area.

Earlier this month, a new analysis by the Department of Health discredited Swanson's claim.

State health officials said they used widely accepted statistical methods to reach their conclusions. They also noted their findings are identical to those they reported in 2007 and 2015.

3M says there is no evidence that the chemicals have impacted the health of residents.

Swanson admits her jurisdiction was limited only to damages caused to Minnesota's natural resources, not personal injury or the diminution of individuals' land value.

Swanson said she believes this settlement brings an end to the lawsuit, adding that DuPont Companies also used PFCs in the manufacturing of Teflon and settled at $671 million.

“My biggest concern is what effect this will have on the value of my home,” said Angela Dreis, whose Lake Elmo property was contaminated.

Dreis hopes this money can be used to either replace her well or connect her property to city water.

Others at Twin Point Tavern in Lake Elmo were dubious of the settlement.

“It’s just a little slap on the wrist for 3M, and they know they've done wrong,” said Doug Willi from Oakdale.

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