Equilibrium & Sustainability

Federal court finalizes $1.2B ‘forever chemicals’ settlement involving major firms

AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel

A federal district court judge granted final approval Thursday to a $1.2 billion settlement between water utilities affected by “forever chemicals” and DuPont de Nemours, as well as spinoff firms Chemours and Corteva.

Per the terms of the settlement, the three companies will collectively establish a $1.18 billion fund for public water systems that have been contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, at any level.

Notorious for their ability to persist in the body and in the environment, PFAS have been discharged by the industry for decades and are found in certain types of firefighting foam and a variety of household products.

There are thousands of types of PFAS, many of which had been manufactured by DuPont’s legacy parent — E.I. du Pont de Nemours — and two of its spinoffs, Chemours and Corteva.

The settlement in question pertains to multi-district litigation that consolidated thousands of cases against the producers of PFAS-laden, aqueous film forming foam — a material used to fight fuel-based fires at military bases, civilian airports and industrial sites.

Among the plaintiffs in the multi-district litigation — overseen by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in South Carolina — are water providers, municipal property owners and individuals with personal injury and medical monitoring cases.

Only the water utilities, however, were included in this first phase of what has grown to become a massive judicial undertaking.

The finalization of a separate, $10.3 billion settlement between the water providers and the company 3M is expected to occur shortly after the DuPont, Chemours and Corteva approval.

The months leading up to Thursday’s authorization were not always smooth, with many voices objecting to the initial offers — which included clauses that refuted any admission of liability.

Ultimately, the corporations agreed to remove this contentious indemnity clause. Some dispute remains, however, over the fact that public water systems needed to actively opt out of the settlements, without necessarily knowing the extent of their contamination.

But on Thursday, the co-lead counsels on the executive committee for the plaintiffs — Michael London, Paul Napoli, Joe Rice, Scott Summy and Elizabeth Fegan — expressed their satisfaction with the outcome.

“The DuPont final approval order signifies a critical step towards accountability and addressing PFAS-related challenges for water service providers and the communities they serve,” the attorneys said in a joint statement.

“We look forward to the next steps in the claims process and continued collaboration with the remaining defendants to expedite relief in this matter,” they added.

The Hill has reached out to DuPont, Chemours and Corteva for comment.

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