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PFAS Treatment Efforts Are Costing More Than Manufacturer Settlements Can Provide

  • 28 December 2023
  • ckearns

By Peter Chawaga    

December 13, 2023

Even as the largest manufacturers are being held financially responsible for the introduction of a pervasive class of contaminants into the environment, many water systems across the U.S. continue to face challenges in funding treatment solutions.

Major chemical producers like 3M are facing multi-billion dollar settlements for generating wastewater that introduced per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals,” into the water sources. As more is discovered about these contaminants’ widespread presence in drinking water and the potential harm they are causing for consumers, some water systems are utilizing these funds to increase treatment measures.

But others are being left out, unsure of how they will comply with forthcoming requirements from the U.S. EPA to remove PFAS. In Minnesota, for instance, a recent $850 million settlement from 3M will not be enough to go around.

“Cities across Minnesota that weren’t part of the 3M settlement are faced with the dilemma of how to pay the hefty costs for removing PFAS from their drinking water,” MPR News reported. “An early estimate of the costs for cities … to meet the proposed EPA standards is around $150 million to $200 million, but that number could change, state officials said.”

As more settlements across the country are finalized, there will be hard limits to how much funding chemical companies will provide to solve PFAS contamination. And it’s becoming clear that it won’t be enough, as estimates now suggest it might cost as much as $47 billion to adequately address the problem.

“Chemours, Dupont De Nemours and Corteva have reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. state of Ohio for $110 million to resolve claims associated with toxic ‘forever chemicals,’” according to Reuters. “The agreement resolved Ohio’s claims relating to the release of … PFAS, from the companies’ facilities.”

With polluter payouts increasingly reaching their limits, water systems are now turning to federal sources to fund PFAS solutions.

“The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will ask state lawmakers for $170 million in bonding money in the upcoming session for cities to start building treatment plants,” per MPR. “Some Minnesota cities have signed onto national class-action settlements against 3M, Dupont and other PFAS manufacturers, hoping to recoup some of their costs. But that could take years.”

To read more about how drinking water utilities find the financing to expand treatment work, visit Water Online’s Funding Solutions Center.

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