If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Court approves $10 billion PFAS settlement

3M to pay public utilities over the next 13 years to resolve lawsuits over ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

by Britt E. Erickson
April 3, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 11


A water faucet with a drop of water coming out.
Credit: Shutterstock
3M expects to pay about $10.3 billion over 13 years to help public utilities remove per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances from drinking water.

A federal district judge has approved an agreement between 3M and public water utilities to settle thousands of lawsuits involving contamination of drinking water with certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Under the class settlement, approved March 29 by Judge Richard M. Gergel, 3M expects to pay about $10.3 billion over 13 years to more than 11,000 public water systems.

3M plans to issue the first payments, a total of about $2.9 billion, in the third quarter of this year. The money will be allocated to public water systems based on a score that takes into account PFAS concentrations and flow rates of the impacted water as well as costs to install PFAS treatment systems.

The settlement class includes every public water utility in the US that, as of June 22, 2023, had detected PFAS in at least one water source. The class also includes a second group of utilities that have not yet detected PFAS in their water but are required to monitor for the chemicals.

The first group of utilities will receive 55% of the settlement amount, according to the agreement.

The settlement comes as public water utilities prepare to meet tough new drinking water limits for certain PFAS. The US Environmental Protection Agency is poised to finalize those limits in the coming days or weeks. The two PFAS of biggest concern, because of their toxicity, are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). In March 2023, the EPA proposed a drinking water limit of 4 parts per trillion for each.

3M produced about 70% of PFOA and PFOS that was used historically in the US. The company stopped making the chemicals in the early 2000s, but decades of use in firefighting foam and other products led to widespread contamination of drinking water sources. The chemicals are slow to break down in the environment.

Facing thousands of lawsuits over PFAS contamination and growing liabilities, 3M announced in late 2022 that it will cease production of all PFAS, including fluoropolymers, by the end of 2025.

“The final approval of this settlement and continued progress toward exiting all PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025 will further our efforts to reduce risk and uncertainty as we move forward,” 3M CEO Mike Roman says in a statement.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.