There's no pricetag on what the agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will cost the company. But it is expected to be much more costly than if 3M had agreed to a cleanup plan under the state Superfund law.
The agreement with the MPCA must still be ratified by the agency's Citizen's Board, which meets 10 days from now.
3M had argued in favor of a negotiated agreement to clean up the PFC waste during the MPCA Citizen's Board meeting last month.
The company told the board it wanted to negotiate an agreement because it could not accept the MPCA commissioner's recommendation to declare releases of PFCs as hazardous substances under the state's Superfund law.
That declaration would have allowed the MPCA to take charge of the waste cleanup at disposal sites in Oakdale, Woodbury and the plant in Cottage Grove, if 3M didn't comply with the state's wishes.
But MPCA Deputy Commissioner Leo Raudys says the new written agreement is actually much stronger than any arrangement the state would have come up with under Superfund.
For starters, Raudys says 3M will now have to remove all PFC waste from the ground rather than just placing a cap on it, as some earlier state plans suggested.
“It's a very solid blueprint for how to manage fluorochemicals in the environment in the state of Minnesota.”3M spokesman Bill Nelson
"It essentially sets out a new standard for these particular sites that will, in effect, direct 3M to excavate virtually all the material and put it in a lined facility -- where it's not going to continue to get into the environment," said Raudys.
Raudys says he has no idea what the excavations will cost the company, but he says it likely will be significant. In March, 3M said it would set aside at least $120 million for environmental costs.
The state was also able to get 3M to agree to pay for cleanup at a dump site it doesn't own. The company has agreed to pay up to $8 million to clean up PFCs in the Washington County Landfill. Prior to the agreement, 3M had no legal liability to clean up that site because it is operated by state.
Raudys says the agreement also requires the company to pay for costs associated with contaminated drinking water. 3M has agreed to provide alternate drinking water if PFC levels in any wells exceed the state's health-based values.
Raudys says the arrangement also applies to newer chemicals like PFBA.
"For example, the Department of Health does not currently have an HBV for PFBA, as you know. So when they do that, if there is a community that has drinking water that exceeds that limit, they are required under this agreement to provide drinking water that is below those levels," said Raudys.
PFBA was discovered in the public drinking water of several east metro communities, including Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove and Woodbury.
3M will also give the MPCA up to $5 million in grants to pay for future research on PFCs. And the company has agreed to reimburse the agency nearly $600,000 in expenses related to the agency's investigation so far.
For its part, 3M says it's proud of the agreement. Spokesman Bill Nelson says the document gives the company and the state a solid framework to manage PFCs into the future.
"We have a clear document that outlines 3M's role and responsibilities, it outlines the state's clear oversight in this matter, and it's a pathway that both the company involved and the state of Minnesota have agreed to," said Nelson. "Going forward, it's just a very solid blueprint for how to manage fluorochemicals in the environment in the state of Minnesota."
Nelson says the agreement also gets the cleanup work started much sooner than if it had been handled through the Superfund process. He says 3M is ready to begin its work as soon as the MPCA's Citizen's Board approves the agreement. The board is expected to vote on the document at its meeting on May 22.
The MPCA says if 3M doesn't follow through on the agreement, the agency has reserved the right to bring additional enforcement actions against the company.