Attorney General Letitia James to 3M: ‘You poisoned our water, now pay up’

July 27, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Attorney General Letitia James has taken a definitive stand against a proposed settlement with the 3M Company (3M) that, in her view, falls woefully short of holding the company accountable for its alleged contribution to nationwide water contamination.

At the heart of the contention is 3M’s use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as “PFAS” or “forever chemicals.”

This nickname speaks to their persistence in the environment and their accumulation in the human body. Exposure to these chemicals has been associated with kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, immune system effects and a slew of other adverse conditions.

The company’s proposed settlement would require public water systems to withdraw their numerous lawsuits against 3M, filed in response to the contamination. This would effectively relinquish their right to legal recourse against the company, without any guarantee of how much compensation they would receive in return.

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For Attorney General James, this situation is untenable.

“These toxic ‘forever chemicals’ have contaminated water supplies across the nation, including here in New York, and have caused devastating health problems,” she said.

“This proposed settlement would allow 3M to skirt responsibility for their pollution and could leave taxpayers on the hook for expensive cleanup efforts,” James continued. “New Yorkers have a basic right to clean drinking water, and I will not allow corporate polluters to avoid their responsibility to clean up their messes.”

New York is part of a coalition of 22 U.S. states and territories that opposes the proposed settlement. Their opposition comes with a stark warning. According to their brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the proposed deal could be applicable to thousands of public water systems, even to those that haven’t sued or tested their water for PFAS contamination.

The burden could be vast and the compensation, ranging from $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion, may not cover all potential damages. It could potentially leave taxpayers liable for cleanup costs.

The fight against 3M is part of a broader campaign for Attorney General James. From lawsuits against companies for illegal dumping and air pollution to challenging the Trump administration’s enforcement of environmental protection laws, James has consistently used her legal prowess to fight for the environment and public health.


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