3M withheld info about toxic chemical contamination, suit claims

MINNEAPOLIS -- The state of Minnesota is suing manufacturing company 3M for $5 billion, alleging its chemicals hurt the people and natural resources of 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, CBS Minnesota reports.

The company is based in Maplewood, Minnesota.

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 CBS Minnesota 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 by phone on Tuesday, Hickey said nothing has changed. He said 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 Scotchgard and Teflon, in 2002.

William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel for 3M, issued a statement saying the company believes "the case is based on the mistaken belief that the mere presence of these chemicals presents harm to human health and the environment."

"We are anxious to bring the facts of this case into full public view. 3M will defend its record of corporate stewardship," Brewer said.

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.