Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson says toxic chemicals dumped by 3M Co. in the east metro suburb Oakdale caused higher rates of cancer, infertility and low birthweight babies — the first time anyone has estimated the potential human health impact of groundwater contamination in the area since the problem came to light almost two decades ago.
In court briefs filed Friday, Swanson included the conclusions of an expert environmental witness, while alleging that the health and environmental damage of the contamination totals $5 billion and arguing that 3M should be liable for punitive damages.
The state’s lawsuit against 3M, first filed in 2010, is scheduled for trial early next year after a long series of procedural delays.
The new filings detail allegations that 3M knew the local groundwater was contaminated with chemical compounds known as PFCs years before it stopped making them; that it suppressed the information over the objections of its own scientists; and that it withheld critical information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“3M, in pursuit of profit, deliberately disregarded the substantial risk of injury to the people and environment of Minnesota from its continued manufacture of PFCs and its improper disposal,” the state said.
In a statement Monday, 3M said Minnesota has not sustained any injuries, “let alone over $5 billion in alleged damages.”
“3M believes these chemicals present no harm at the levels they are observed in Minnesota,” said 3M’s lead attorney, William Brewer III.