LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A footwear maker's cost to resolve a lawsuit over contaminated drinking water in western Michigan is $113 million, but it will be less due to a $55 million payment from chemical giant 3M.
The consent decree among Rockford, Michigan-based Wolverine World Wide, the state of Michigan and two Grand Rapids-area townships was approved by a federal judge this week.
The settlement includes more than the previously announced $69.5 million that Wolverine will provide over a multi-year period to extend municipal water to more than 1,000 properties with private wells in Algoma and Plainfield townships — near where Wolverine dumped "forever" chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, decades ago. The company will spend an estimated $43.5 million on environmental investigation and remediation costs.
Maplewood, Minnesota-based 3M, which was sued by Wolverine in 2018 — its co-defendant in a number of lawsuits — will pay $55 million to support the shoemaker's past and ongoing efforts to address PFAS remediation in the two townships under the consent decree. 3M began manufacturing the compounds in the 1950s and in 2000 announced a voluntary phaseout of production of two types, PFOA and PFOS.
They were used in Scotchgard — which was sold to Wolverine — and in firefighting foams and other products. Wolverine has a number of shoe brands, including Hush Puppies, Keds, Saucony and Stride Rite.
"We have been committed from the very beginning to being part of comprehensive water quality solutions for the community Wolverine has called home for nearly 140 years," Blake W. Krueger, chairman, CEO and president of Wolverine, said in statement. "We are pleased the court has approved this consent decree that provides a structure for our work to continue, and also pleased that 3M is contributing towards our efforts."
Wolverine still faces lawsuits from area residents, though the company said it believes its actions approved under the settlement "will have a significant and beneficial impact" on the resolution of those cases.
John Banovetz, senior vice president of innovation and stewardship and chief technology officer for 3M, said "environmental stewardship is core to 3M, and we are committed to developing and contributing to PFAS solutions guided by sound science, responsibility and transparency."
Last month, Michigan sued 3M, DuPont and other companies for financial damages from contamination caused by PFAS turning up in drinking water across the state. The suit alleged that 17 defendants deliberately concealed the dangers of PFAS.
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