MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The state of Minnesota is suing Maplewood-based 3M for $5 billion, alleging its chemicals hurt both people and natural resources in Minnesota.
In documents filed on Friday, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson alleges the company dumped potentially toxic perflourochemicals, commonly called PFCs, into sites in Woodbury, Oakdale and Cottage Grove for more than 40 years. Those chemicals then seeped into water wells, increasing the rate of cancer, birth defects and infertility across several Minnesota cities.
Court documents also allege 3M concealed the potential harm of these chemicals from government regulators and the scientific community to protect its annual revenue.
Terry Hickey told WCCO in 2016 that his family had been drinking contaminated water from his well in Lake Elmo.
“Ever since we found out about it, we get bottle water,” Hickey said.
Speaking with Hickey Tuesday by phone, nothing has changed. He says his family will continue to drink bottled water until something is done to ensure his drinking water is safe.
The state’s Commissioner of Pollution Control and Commissioner of Natural Resources are also named as plaintiffs.
The company halted production of PFCs, which were used to make Scotch Guard and Teflon, in 2002.
William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel for 3M, issued the following statement:
“We believe the State’s case lacks merit. The case is based on the mistaken belief that the mere presence of these chemicals presents harm to human health and the environment. Most importantly, 3M believes these chemicals present no harm at the levels they are observed in Minnesota. And, as every person with knowledge of the facts is aware, all of 3M’s activities were fully permitted. 3M believes that this suit, filed by a contingent fee law firm, represents an abuse of the power given to the Attorney General.
“3M has worked closely with regulators and community stakeholders to address the environmental presence of PFOA and PFOS – chemicals it has not produced or used in Minnesota in more than a decade. We are anxious to bring the facts of this case into full public view. 3M will defend its record of corporate stewardship.”
The company’s attorneys say the tiny traces of the perfluorochemicals in drinking water have never been proven to cause any health effect and that they dispute the lawsuit.
The next hearing about the lawsuit is set for Dec. 15. in Hennepin County Court. Trial is set for February.