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Rock Island County, Cordova owe 3M more than $500K for improperly assessed taxes

The money will go to the same 3M facility currently being sued by Illinois for allegedly polluting the Mississippi River and surrounding groundwater.

CORDOVA, Ill. — More than half a million dollars in property taxes are being refunded to 3M’s Cordova facility after the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board ruled the company’s land in Rock Island County had been improperly assessed.

It’s the same 3M facility that is currently involved in a lawsuit with the Illinois Attorney General, who alleges the company knowingly manufactured and improperly disposed of dangerous chemicals into surrounding waterways.

3M has previously denied all of the state’s pollution allegations, saying: "3M acted responsibly in connection with its manufacturing operations and products containing PFAS and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship."  

RELATED: Illinois AG says 3M's Cordova plant dumped, hid chemicals in surrounding water

At Thursday night’s city council meeting, Cordova officials refused to comment on both the lawsuit and refunded taxes. Mayor James Boone told News 8 multiple times he would not comment and refrained from stating why.  

According to the state’s PTAB decision on November 16, 2021, 3M is owed approximately $510,690.28 in refunded property taxes from 2017 to 2020.

That money now must come from ten different taxing districts:

  • Cordova township.
  • Cordova road & bridge.
  • Rock Island County.
  • Forest Preserve.
  • Cordova Park.
  • Cordova Library.
  • Multi-township Cordova-Port Byron.
  • Cordova Fire Protection District.
  • Erie Community School District.
  • BlackHawk Community College..

As of April 4, the Rock Island County Treasurer’s Office reported $221,176.32 had already been processed and an estimated $289,513.96 was still owed to the company.

In an email to News 8, county treasurer Louisa Ewert wrote, “To alleviate the burden on the taxing districts all in one levy year due to late decision in the tax year, we processed the 2017 & 2018 refunds at end of last year to 3M.”

The largest amount of owed taxes fell on the Erie School District, which will refund 3M $269,276.60 in total. District Superintendent Chuck Milem could not be reached for comment.

The next two largest refunds come from Rock Island County - $120,865.54 - and BlackHawk Community College, which must refund $54,633.85.

This comes as the state sued 3M for alleged contamination of nearby water. In March, the Illinois Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the company claiming that for years it had manufactured and improperly disposed of a dangerous group of synthetic, manmade chemicals known as PFAS.

RELATED: A cluster of cancer cases in Cordova raises questions about 3M contamination

Once in the environment, PFAS are extremely difficult to remove and have also been referred to as the ‘forever chemical.’ While research around PFAS and their effect on humans is still fairly new, the suit said prolonged exposure can lead to liver damage, thyroid disease and decreased fertility. The National Cancer Institute also linked PFAS to certain forms of cancer.  

The state claimed PFAS from 3M’s Cordova facility were released and/or leaked into the Mississippi River, air, wetlands, drinking water and surrounding groundwater for years. The suit also referenced tests done by the company itself which found chemicals in the area around Cordova’s 3M plant as well as nearly every residential well sampled.

“3M’s negligent, intentional and reckless actions have contaminated property and natural resources… at and around the Cordova Facility, harmed property and natural resources… at and around the Cordova Facility, and placed Illinois residents at risk,” the suit read.   

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