The manufacturer of a group of cancer-linked chemicals, which have contaminated water supplies in Jersey, has said it will stop making them by the end of 2025.
US conglomerate 3M – which reached a deal with the States of Jersey in 2004, with the firm paying out £2.6m in exchange for freedom from being sued – said it would no longer make PFAS, which have been termed ‘forever chemicals’ due to their inability to break down naturally.
One of the family of ‘Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances’ – called 'PFOS' – was an ingredient of firefighting foam sprayed at the Airport, which entered boreholes and streams and has contaminated areas of St Ouen’s Bay and St Brelade.
Residents there say their health has been damaged by drinking water containing the carbon-based chemical.
PFOS and other types of PFAS – which have been used in a variety of products due to their ability to repel heat, fuel and water – have been discovered across the island, including in mains water, in trace amounts.
Jersey Water says its supplies meet the highest international standards of cleanliness. It is also exploring ways to remove PFAS from mains water. Its own supplies are restricted because boreholes in St, Ouen's Bay are contaminated.
3M said it had made its decision based on “an evolving external landscape”.
It said: “The European Union has indicated plans to potentially restrict all PFAS by 2025. The US Environmental Protection Agency has indicated plans to place limits on PFAS in drinking water at current detection limits. Regulatory agencies elsewhere, including in Canada, Australia, and Asia, are increasingly active on this topic.”
It added that customers were also “increasingly interested” in alternatives to PFAS and investors were also wary of the chemicals.
Last month, the EPA – which has been at the forefront of moves to restrict the use of PFAS - issued a new memorandum to state authorities to help clean up water supplies.
Minnesota-based 3M faces billions of dollars in lawsuits from individuals and states alleging that PFAS contained in its products has contaminated rivers and caused health problems including cancer, thyroid issues and birth defects.
Investors have also targeted the global giant, whose products include Post-It notes and Scotch Brite sponges.
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the announcement to stop making PFAS was a “tactical retreat” aimed at containing 3M's potential liability in legal fights, which are expected to last for years.
After signing its deal with 3M in 2004, the Jersey Government is legally obliged to provide information to the manufacturer to help the firm defend claims made against it, including by those islanders who believe their health has been impacted.
However, the Government has funded a blood-testing programme for affected residents and is appointing an ‘advisory panel’ to update ministers on the latest research and recommend ways to remove it from the body.
In parallel, the Environment Department is carrying out a hydrogeological study to assess which parts of the island are affected and the level of contamination.
Express explored 3M's 'secret deal' with the States of Jersey in-depth in a previous podcast... Listen below or via your favourite podcast provider...
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