Property Owners Settle PFAS Case for $54M

The chemicals were used in 3M's Scotchgard waterproofing product.

3M offices, St. Paul, Minn.
3M offices, St. Paul, Minn.
Marlin Levison/Star Tribune via AP

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A judge has given tentative approval to a $54 million settlement involving 3M Co., a shoe manufacturer and property owners in western Michigan who said their land and wells were contaminated by toxic “forever chemicals.”

The class-action deal involves approximately 1,700 properties north of Grand Rapids.

The compounds are in a category known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They were long used in scores of industrial applications, don’t break down easily and can migrate from soil to groundwater.

“The settlement is fair, reasonable, adequate and meets the standards for preliminary approval,” U.S. District Judge Hala Jarbou said last week, setting a final fairness hearing for March 29.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2017 against 3M and Wolverine Worldwide, a footwear company based in Rockford, Michigan.

PFAS were used to make Scotchgard, a 3M waterproofing product used by Wolverine, which has a number of brands, including Hush Puppies, Merrell, Keds, Saucony and Chaco.

There is no dispute that decades ago Wolverine regularly dumped chemical-laced sludge in northern Kent County. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they last a long time in the environment.

In a written statement, 3M said details about how much each company is paying are confidential.

“The agreement resolves claims on behalf of the proposed classes without the need for further lengthy and expensive litigation,” the company said.

Wolverine said the settlement is a key step to "doing the right thing for our community.”

In 2019, Michigan authorities announced a $69.5 million deal with Wolverine that included an extension of public water to affected areas. Wolverine said Minnesota-based 3M was covering much of that agreement.

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