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3M to Pay $12 Million to Settle Alabama Water Contamination Suit

Oct. 27, 2021, 5:19 PM

Water utility customers in Alabama seek a federal judge’s approval of a $12 million settlement reached with 3M Co. and others over their alleged pollution of the Tennessee River with “forever chemicals.”

West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority customers say 3M, Dyneon LLC, and Daikin America Inc. polluted the river through releases of certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS. The river is the only source of raw water for the utility, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

The settlement will reimburse members of the proposed utility class who either paid for contaminated water or who stayed at a home that received such water, according to a motion for preliminary approval filed Tuesday. Residential ratepayers will receive between $50 and $745. Household members and owners who didn’t pay for the water will receive between $50 and $100, the filing says.

The settlement is fair, even though it doesn’t give all of the benefits the class representatives first sought, the filing says. A settlement now is preferable also because the Covid-19 pandemic has made it uncertain when the case will go to trial, the filing says.

The court should conditionally certify the settlement class, which is numerous and whose members share common issues here, according to the filing. Their claims are all linked to the exposure to contaminated water from a common source, the filing says. There was only one intake from the river for the utility distribution system, and that intake took in contaminated water, the filing says.

Class counsel will seek a fee of $3.6 million, which is thirty percent of the common fund, and expenses of about, and no more than, $900,000 in expenses, the filing says.

Judge Abdul K. Kallon oversees the case.

The lawsuit is one of many brought by water authorities and customers against 3M and other companies over alleged PFAS contamination.

Heninger Garrison Davis LLC and Hannon Law Firm LLC represent plaintiffs and the proposed class.

Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum LLP, Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC, and Mayer Brown LLP represent 3M and Dyneon. Jones Walker LLP, Balch & Bingham LLP, and Jones Day represent Daikin.

The case is Lindsey v. 3M Co., N.D. Ala., No. 5:15-cv-01750, 10/26/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maya Earls in Washington at mearls@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com