BASF settles PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ water contamination lawsuit for $316.5 million

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German chemical company BASF said on Tuesday it reached a $316.5 million settlement with some U.S. public water systems that claimed toxic “forever chemicals” in firefighting foam made by the company contaminated their water supplies.

The money provided by the settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge, will help cities, towns and other public water systems remediate contamination of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

PFAS are a class of chemicals used in thousands of consumer and commercial products, including firefighting foams, non-stick pans and stain-resistant fabrics. They have been tied to cancers and other diseases, and are often called forever chemicals because they do not easily break down in nature or the human body.

BASF said in a statement that the settlement does not constitute an admission of liability or wrongdoing, and that it will seek to recover for the settlement through its numerous insurance policies.

The company said it will pay about $4 million as part of the settlement in July, and will pay another $312.5 million in March.

BASF is among nearly two dozen chemical companies that have faced lawsuits brought by water systems over PFAS pollution in sprawling litigation that has been centralized in a South Carolina federal court.

The lawsuits focus on PFAS that contaminated groundwater after being sprayed in firefighting foams at fire houses and airports across the U.S.

In 2023, those lawsuits led to more than $11 billion in settlements between U.S. water systems and major chemical companies including 3M, Chemours, Corteva and DuPont de Nemours. In April, Johnson Controls unit Tyco Fire Products agreed to a $750 million settlement.

BASF and roughly half a dozen other companies had been tentatively scheduled to go to trial in early 2025.

“This significant agreement is in large part the result of the pressure of upcoming trial cases,” attorneys for the water systems at the law firms Douglas & London, Napoli Shkolnik, Baron & Budd and Motley Rice said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

“It acknowledges the scope of the PFAS crisis, and the financial depths required to address a problem of this magnitude,” they said.

Beyond the courtroom, PFAS have come under increased regulatory scrutiny in the United States in recent years as well.

In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set the first national drinking water standards to protect people from the chemicals, and designated a pair of the chemicals as hazardous substances under the nation’s Superfund program.

—Clark Mindock, Reuters

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