3M Co. has settled a lawsuit related to groundwater and surface water contamination with the State of Minnesota for $850 million on the day trial was set to begin.

Attorney General Lori Swanson noted she was pleased with the settlement, and that the money would be used to help affected communities, to improve drinking water quality and sustainability, and to fund natural resource projects. Brattle economists provided evidence on liability and assessed damages on behalf of the State of Minnesota.

The long and contentious case began in 2010 as a lawsuit over fish and waterways in Minnesota, and developed into a dispute regarding contamination of some of the state’s drinking water supplies. The state posited that perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which were previously used in 3M products, had entered some of the state’s water resources and was contributing to health and environmental issues in the area.

A Brattle team led by Principal David Sunding and managed by Associate Gina Waterfield used statistical methods to demonstrate that the affected communities faced elevated rates of certain adverse health outcomes associated with PFCs. They also evaluated the effects of the contamination on local property values and on the welfare of recreational visitors to contaminated lakes and rivers. Dr. Sunding testified on his analyses in depositions, and his report was released publicly in support of the State’s request for punitive damages.

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