Sep 26, 2022

PFAS Settlement Over Drinking Water Contamination Will Result in $54 Million Payment by 3M, Wolverine

Posted by : Irvin Jackson

The $54 million will be divided among more than 1,700 property owners who suffered PFAS drinking water contamination.

September 26, 2022
By: Irvin Jackson

A federal judge approved a proposed class action settlement over PFAS water contamination, which will result in a payment of $54 million to hundreds of property owners in Kent County, Michigan by 3M Company and Wolverine World Wide, after toxic chemicals from a manufacturing plant were dumped into the environment.

The lawsuit stemmed from the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to treat leather at a Wolverine footwear manufacturing facility, which leached into the Michigan drinking water, posing potential health risks for more than 1,700 area residents.

Concerns Over PFAS Water Contamination

Toxic PFAS chemicals were first introduced into the manufacturing industry in the 1940s, because of their ability to resist heat, grease, stains, and water. For these reasons, they have become widely used in a vast amount of consumer products, including food packaging materials, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, fabrics, nonstick cooking pans, and large volumes of the chemicals have been used in aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used by the military and civilian fire companies to combat fuel-based fires.

Since the chemicals do not break down naturally, they have contaminated water supplies in communities nationwide, especially near manufacturing plants, airports, military bases and other facilities, where large volumes of PFAS entered water from the use of firefighting foam products used during firefighter training.

Manufacturers of the chemicals now face a number of firefighting foam cancer lawsuitsbrought by individuals who came into direct contact with the chemicals during fire training and response exercises. In addition, PFAS water contamination lawsuits are also being pursued by individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and ulcerative colitis after years of drinking tap water known to contain high levels of the toxic forever chemicals.

Learn More About Firefighting Foam lawsuits

Exposure to firefighting foam chemicals may result in an increased risk of cancer for firefighters, military and airport personnel.

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In 2017, several property owners in Kent County, Michigan filed a PFAS class action lawsuit against 3M and Wolverine due to water contamination in the Belmont Michigan National Guard Armory drinking water. The so-called forever chemicals infiltrated local municipal water supplies and private wells, and appeared to be spreading rapidly to other water sources.

The source was tracked back to the House Street Disposal Area, and plaintiffs say it comes from PFAS used by 3M and Wolverine to make Scotchgard, a water replant used in Wolverine’s Keds footwear. Wolverine, based in Rockford, Michigan, is the manufacturer of Cat work boots, as well as Keds and Saucony shoes.

Plaintiffs said Wolverine dumped the waste into nearby disposal sites, which then leached into the water table. The lawsuit also claims both companies knew the risks to local water supplies but failed to take precautions or warn local communities.

PFAS Contamination Settlement

On September 19, U.S. District Judge Hala Y. Jarbou, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, issued an order (PDF) granting preliminary approval of a $54 million settlement agreement for 1,733 property owners in what is known as the North Kent Study Area. Class members are expected to receive between $15,000 and $25,000 each.

Judge Jarbou has set a notice date at 30 days after the preliminary approval granted on Monday. Class members have 45 days after the notice date to opt out or object to the agreement. They have 90 days from the notice date to file a claim.

A final approval hearing will be held no earlier than 195 days after Monday’s preliminary approval.

Tags: 3M Company, Drinking Water, Michigan, PFAS, Water Contamination, Wolverine Worldwide

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Irvin Jackson