Twin Cities company to pay $1.375 million in settlement over alleged pollution

An autumn morning on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis
An autumn morning on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. The lake is one of three affected by "forever chemical" pollution that was the subject of a settlement agreement announced Wednesday.
Luke Taylor | MPR file

State officials say a Twin Cities company will pay $1.375 million in a settlement over the alleged release of so-called “forever chemicals” that reached three lakes.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday announced the “natural resource damages settlement agreement” with Douglas Corporation, which operates a chrome-plating facility in St. Louis Park.

The agencies allege that the company was the source of PFAS and hexavalent chromium pollution that was found in Bde Maka Ska, Lake Harriet and Bass Lake.

While the company agreed to the settlement, in the filing it denies it’s responsible for the pollution. The settlement terms state that the agreement is “neither an admission of liability by Douglas nor a concession by (the state agencies) that their claims are not well-founded.”

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The state agencies said the pollution was first detected in the lakes in 2004, and an investigation led to Douglas Corp. in 2008. In a news release Wednesday, the agencies said Douglas started taking measures to prevent PFAS from leaving its St. Louis Park facility in 2010 — after which, PFAS levels in fish in Bde Maka Ska began to fall. While levels have dropped, the Minnesota Department of Health continues to advise limiting consumption of fish from those three lakes.

In 2016, the agencies said, Douglas agreed to a “schedule of compliance that requires additional measures to protect the environment, including stormwater improvements, comprehensive monitoring and stormwater pond cleanout.”

That 2016 agreement remains in effect. The state said the pollution did not effect drinking water systems in St. Louis Park or Minneapolis.

The state said at least $1 million of the settlement announced Wednesday will go toward projects to improve water quality, habitat and outdoor recreation in the area. The DNR will seek project ideas from community organizations.