State Forces 3M to Shoulder Cottage Grove Clean Up Burden

Image by Banej. CC-BY-SA 3.0

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. – Under an agreement signed in 2007, the 3M Co. will foot the bill to clean up water which was only deemed unsafe under dramatically more stringent purity standards introduced just this year.

Alpha News previously reported that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) sharply reduced the maximum levels of two chemicals for acceptable use water. The new guidelines call for no more than 35 parts per trillion of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and no more than 27 parts per trillion for Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). MDH said in its press release that current standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stand at 70 parts per trillion for both chemicals.

These chemicals together are called perfluorochemicals (PFCs) and the current levels in the city of Cottage Grove’s water supply may be a result of 3M’s legal use of designated disposal sites for PFCs. The company stopped making PFCs in the early 2000s however, while other companies only stopped as recently as 2015, and then only under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In Cottage Grove costs could be in excess of $2.2 million to install eight large carbon filters on City Well 10, as well as a large number of smaller fixes for individual homes, reports the Pioneer Press. Furthermore if a long term solution comes in the form of a new water treatment facility, an additional $5 million to $10 million could be tacked on to 3M’s bill.

“It’s early in the process so don’t be concerned about the cost of the temporary systems,” Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said in a Facebook post. “We are covered, and the citizens of Cottage Grove are not paying for the temporary systems.”

In MDH’s May press release announcing the lowered guidelines for PFCs the department admitted that it’s new guidelines were overly protective for most residents. MDH also admitted that drinking water with PFCs does not present an immediate health risk, even at the now much higher federal guideline levels. New value limits on PFC are designed to reduce longer-term health risks, and are overly protective for most residents out of childhood.

3M is planning on contesting the assertion that it is responsible for the PFC levels in Cottage Grove, reports the Pioneer Press. Another possible source of PFCs could be the remnants of firefighting efforts in the area.

If you liked this story you might be interested in this one as well: MN Dept. of Health Doubles Federal Water Protections.

Anders Koskinen