LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan on Tuesday sued 3M, DuPont and other companies for financial damages from contamination caused by potentially harmful "forever" chemicals that are turning up in drinking water across a state known for industrial manufacturing.
The lawsuit alleges that 17 defendants deliberately concealed the dangers of a class of substances known collectively as PFAS. The filing, announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Attorney General Dana Nessel, came a year-and-a-half after former Gov. Rick Snyder first stated Michigan's intent to sue Minnesota-based 3M and other parties.
3M made the chemicals starting in the 1950s and stopped in 2002. They were used in Scotchgard, fire retardants, nonstick cookware and other products.
The substances have been detected at levels requiring remediation at more than 70 sites across Michigan. The compounds have been dubbed "forever chemicals" because they take thousands of years to degrade, and because some accumulate in people's bodies.
"Without widespread action to investigate, remediate and restore the resources in Michigan impacted by PFAS contamination, the presence and migration of PFAS in our state's natural resources and property will continue unchecked and indefinitely, threatening natural resources, property and our residents," Nessel said. "We are committed to ensuring that the companies responsible for unleashing PFAS on our state will stand up to their legal obligations and responsibilities."
3M and DuPont could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2018, 3M agreed to pay the state of Minnesota $850 million to settle a major case alleging the manufacturer damaged natural resources and contaminated groundwater by disposing of the chemicals over decades.
Companies have released the below statements.
From Dupont: “We have not received the complaint referenced by the Attorney General’s office, however we are extremely disappointed they have taken this action we believe is without merit.
DuPont does not make PFOA, PFOS or GenX. Further, DuPont never manufactured or sold firefighting foam. Across our portfolio, DuPont’s use of other PFAS is a small fraction of the total PFAS used in the world. While our use is extremely small, we’re actively pursuing alternatives to PFAS where possible in our manufacturing processes.
While fulfilling our remediation responsibilities continue to be a priority for DuPont, we are, and have always been, committed to upholding the highest standards for the wellbeing of our employees, our customers and the communities in which we operate, and we will vigorously defend our record of safety, health and environmental stewardship.”
From 3M: “3M disagrees with the allegations in this lawsuit. We acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend our record of environmental stewardship. To that end, we have placed thousands of documents in the public domain, including more than 150 published studies conducted by 3M and other researchers on potential environmental and health effects of PFAS. 3M did not and will not distort the science. We share information about 3M’s use of PFAS and our stewardship actions at www.3M.com/PFAS [3m.com].”