DuPont, Chemours, Corteva reach $1B drinking water settlement
WILMINGTON – The trio of companies that emerged from the legacy of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company – DuPont, Chemours and Corteva – have reached a nearly $1.2 billion settlement agreement that will resolve cases filed regarding drinking water allegedly contaminated by firefighting foam with so-called “forever chemicals.”
The agreement in principle, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, seeks to comprehensively settle all drinking water claims of a defined class of public water systems that serve the vast majority of the U.S.
The companies had faced multi-district litigation from about 300 different jurisdictions, which alleged their drinking water supply is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, including perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, PFOS, that primarily came from the use of fire-fighting foams that the former DuPont manufactured despite knowing the environmental risks. Although most current lawsuits centered on the firefighting foam, the settlement fund would cover any eligible impact to a drinking water source.
Water systems owned and operated by states or the federal government; small systems that have not detected the presence of PFAS and are not currently required to monitor for it under federal or state requirements; and water systems in the lower Cape Fear River Basin of North Carolina, which are covered under other litigation, are not eligible for the settlement funds.
The $1.185 billion settlement falls under the parameters of the 2021 memorandum of understanding negotiated by the three companies about financial liability for past issues, with Chemours paying half (about $592 million) and DuPont and Corteva splitting the rest – in this case, DuPont will pay about $400 million in the fund while Corteva pays $192 million.
The settlement amounts will be funded by the companies in full and deposited into the water district settlement fund within 10 business days following preliminary approval of the settlement by the court, which is anticipated by the end of the month.
Chemours, DuPont and Corteva expect to utilize the 2021 MOU escrow account balance, among other sources, to make their respective contributions to the water district settlement fund. As of March 31, about $350 million has already been paid out of the $4 billion fund.
Despite the settlement agreement, the companies do not admit fault in the cases and deny the allegations. If a settlement cannot be finalized and plaintiffs choose to pursue their cases, the trio said they would continue to “assert their strong legal defenses.”
The companies will have the right to terminate the settlement if too many jurisdictions choose to opt-out, but the companies told investors that they believed the likelihood of that occurring was low.
The drinking water settlement does not resolve personal injury cases regarding PFAS as well as state attorneys general’s cases regarding environmental damage from PFAS. The chemicals have become an enormous liability for the companies, as well as other manufacturers like 3M, producing lawsuits across the country and in Delaware, as well as tougher federal government stances on their production and remediation.
Wall Street greeted the settlement with support, with Chemours seeing a more than 20% share price bump to about $33.75 a share Friday. With the future liability now pegged, DuPont’s share price rose more than 8% Friday and Corteva’s rose more than 3%.