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3M agrees to pay $98 million to resolve suits over 'forever' chemicals

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FILE PHOTO: The 3M Global Headquarters in Maplewood, Minnesota
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By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Industrial conglomerate 3M Co on Tuesday said it had agreed to pay about $98.4 million to settle claims that it contaminated the Tennessee River with toxic chemicals.

3M agreed to resolve a lawsuit by environmental group Tennessee Riverkeeper and a separate class action by residents of Alabama's Morgan County. It also negotiated a private settlement with Morgan County, the city of Decatur, where 3M's local facility is based, and Decatur's utility provider.

The three agreements all involve 3M's manufacturing and disposal of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, at its Decatur industrial site in Morgan County.

The settlements come a day after the Environmental Protection Agency said it would set limits on PFAS, which scientists have associated with illnesses such as kidney cancer.

PFAS have been dubbed "forever chemicals" because they do not break down easily. They have been used for decades in household products such as non-stick cookware.

The agreements are subject to final approval, 3M said in a statement. The company did not admit wrongdoing.

3M's Decatur site director, Michelle Howell, said in a statement that she hoped the deals would "strengthen Decatur for the future."

Tennessee Riverkeeper in a statement called the settlement "just a start."

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said in a statement the settlement "will fund improvements that will make the environment in Decatur and Morgan County healthier."

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Stephen Coates)

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