Met Council may pursue legal action against 3M over PFC issueThe Metropolitan Council is considering legal action against 3M, claiming it could face costly infrastructure upgrades to meet proposed water treatment standards that the agency has suggested were a response to 3M chemical pollution in and around Cottage Grove.
By: Scott Wente, The Hastings Star-Gazette
The Metropolitan Council is considering legal action against 3M, claiming it could face costly infrastructure upgrades to meet proposed water treatment standards that the agency has suggested were a response to 3M chemical pollution in and around Cottage Grove.
Met Council officials have pointed to 3M’s perfluorochemical (PFC) groundwater pollution in the eastern Twin Cities area as a cause of contaminated water discharge into the Mississippi River between St. Paul and Hastings. The presence of one type of PFC, perfluorooctane sulfanate, or PFOS, led state officials to impose fish consumption limits for that area of the river known as Pool 2.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has proposed rigorous standards for the level of PFOS that can be discharged into the river, including from wastewater treatment plants.
The Met Council operates seven wastewater treatment plants in the Twin Cities, including the Eagles Point Plant in Cottage Grove. That plant treats water from Cottage Grove before discharging it into the river.
Met Council staff raised concerns about the ability of the Eagles Point Plant and another plant to treat water so that the discharge meets the proposed PFOS guidelines. Upgrading treatment equipment to meet the proposed standard could cost “hundreds of millions of dollars,” officials told the Met Council during a briefing in April.
While the Met Council pointed to 3M as a source of the PFOS, it also has objected to implementation of the Pollution Control Agency’s proposed discharge standard.
On Wednesday, Met Council members met with attorneys behind closed doors to discuss legal options.
The Met Council’s discussion comes as the state attorney general’s office is pursuing a lawsuit against 3M. The state wants the company to pay for alleged environmental damage as a result of the release of PFCs into river water and east-metro groundwater.
Among the Met Council’s considerations are whether to join in the pending state litigation or bring its own suit against 3M.
“The council, furthermore, needs to assess the implications of any actions we take on the ratepayers who pay for the costs of wastewater collection and treatment,” agency spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said.
Met Council officials did not give a deadline by which a decision about possible legal action would be made.
3M spokesman Bill Nelson limited his response because he said the company has not been formally contacted by the Met Council and would like the opportunity to discuss the agency’s concerns prior to any legal filing.
However, Nelson said that 3M is not solely responsible for PFC contamination.
“The point is that 3M is not the only source of these materials in the state of Minnesota,” he said. “It is true we manufactured them but we have not used or manufactured (PFCs) since 2002.”
Other companies worldwide still use the chemicals to make products that are sold and used in Minnesota, Nelson said.
“3M is not the only source of PFCs in Minnesota,” he said.
Nelson noted that 3M has cleaned up and is in the processing of cleaning up soil and water that were contaminated by 3M-disposed materials containing PFCs, Nelson added.
For decades 3M used PFCs to make products such as Scotchguard and other stain-resistant and fire-retardant products at its Cottage Grove plant.