Deadlines to Act on PFAS Settlements: What Water Utilities Need to Know
Multibillion-dollar lawsuit settlements against some of the major manufacturers of PFAS (referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their recalcitrance) could pay water utilities for testing and remediation costs. However, the proposed settlements could prohibit water system owners from suing the manufacturers involved, even if the water providers do not get funds from the settlements. Owners face December deadlines to decide whether to participate in the settlements.
What do water systems owners need to know?
Thousands of cases filed by public water suppliers, state Attorneys General and individual plaintiffs have been consolidated for resolution before a U.S. District Judge in Charleston, South Carolina. The judge has set hearings to determine the fairness of two class settlements involving claims affecting public water systems: 3M would pay up to $12.5 billion, and $1.185 billion would be paid by DuPont de Nemours, Inc., Chemours Company and Corteva, Inc.
The lawsuits are intended to hold these PFAS manufacturers responsible for cleaning the contaminants from public drinking water systems because of their link to a variety of health problems, including liver damage and cancer.
The proposed settlements cover “Community Water Systems” and public water suppliers serving more than 3,300 people. If the court approves the settlements, the terms will bind water systems even if they didn’t take part in the litigation. This means water providers would not be able to file future lawsuits over PFAS — unless they notify the court that they’re opting out of the settlements.
What are the proposed settlement terms?
Classes of public water suppliers could receive amounts from $3.625 billion to $6.875 billion from the settlement fund, depending on various factors, including their PFAS testing lab results. Claims filing, evaluation and payments would take multiple years.
More information about the settlement details and timetables is available at this website set up by the court and the authorized claims administrator: Public Water System Settlements
Water industry groups and others have argued that the settlement fund would fall far short of actual costs for communities, particularly with the Environmental Protection Agency proposing new rules for removing PFAS from drinking water. A recent American Water Works Association study estimated that the nationwide cost of treating and removing PFAS at more than $3.8 billion a year.
What should water providers do now?
- First, consult your legal counsel for specific guidance about your rights and responsibilities.
- Decide whether to remain in the settlement class or opt out.
- Take action by these important deadlines:
- Dec. 4, 2023: Deadline to request exclusion from the DuPont settlement
- Dec. 11, 2023: Deadline to request exclusion from the 3M settlement
- If you remain in the settlement class, you can get updates on the Public Water System Settlements website. The court has scheduled two fairness hearings on the settlements: DuPont: Dec. 14, 2023; and 3M: Feb. 2, 2024. If the settlements are approved, the first deadlines for filing claims will be 60 days after the settlements take effect.
How can Freese and Nichols help you?
With our team’s expertise and experience in environmental science and water treatment, we can assist you with PFAS regulatory compliance, PFAS sampling, remediation, treatment process piloting and design, PFAS concentrate management, planning/funding and program management.