Shares of 3M Co. took a dive Wednesday toward the lowest close in more than 10-years, after investors were reminded that concerns over potential liabilities related to “forever chemicals” remained.
The Dutch government said Tuesday that Mark Harbers, minister of infrastructure and water management, has officially held 3M liable for damage from perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by a factory in Western Scheldt. The government said the State Attorney sent a letter to notify 3M of the minister’s decision.
Minister Harbers said there is too much PFAS in the Western Scheldt, which leads to concerns among residents, as well as financial damage for fisherman and infrastructure and water management ministry.
“I believe that the polluters should pay, not the users and administrators,” Harbers said, according to a Google translation of the document. “Holding 3M liable is in line with that starting point.”
PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals,” because they don’t break down in the environment. The chemicals, which are used to make a variety of products water- and grease-resistant, have been linked to a number of health hazards, including cancer, childhood development delays and reduced vaccine response.
Also read, from January 2021: Biden administration looks to target ‘forever chemicals,’ as 3M warns about ‘onerous regulation.’
“We have received a letter from the legal representative of the Dutch government,” 3M wrote in an emailed statement to MarketWatch. “We are examining the content of the letter and welcome the opportunity for conversation with the Dutch government and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, which follows our invitation of the beginning of this year to the Ministry to have a conversation on the PFAS situation in the Western Scheldt.”
3M’s stock MMM, -3.68% dropped 3.7% to $ 96.99, enough to pace the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s DJIA, -0.77% decliners. The stock closed at the lowest price since Jan. 11, 2013.
The stock has tumbled 19.1% year to date, and has plunged 33.5% over the past 12 months, to lead all Dow components in losses over those time frames. Meanwhile, the Dow has slipped 1.1% this year and gained 2.1% over the past year.
The Dutch government said Tuesday that Minister Harbers would make an inventory of the damage suffered. And Minister Harbers has accepted an earlier invitation by 3M to discuss potential liabilities.
The Dutch government’s announcement comes after 3M has previously disclosed that the Netherlands government has indicated it was investigating potential claims to recover damages from companies related to alleged PFAS contamination of the Western Scheldt, the estuary of the Scheldt river that flows through Belgium and the Netherlands.
That followed an agreement reached in July 2022 with the Flemish government, in which 3M Belgium agreed to invest more than EUR571 million (about $ 582 million at that time) to carry out PFAS-related remedial actions.
3M had announced in December 2022 that it will exit PFAS manufacturing by the end of 2025, and work to discontinue the use of PFAS across its product portfolio, including all PFAS manufacturing at the site in Zwijndrecht, Netherlands.
“Our remediation commitments and investments in technology will continue throughout this transition and beyond,” 3M said.
n February, the province of Zeeland, where the Western Scheldt is located, gave entrepreneurs, such as fisherman and camp owners, a means to report their losses.