Environment

Local governments look to state to help foot PFAS bill

water flowing out of a faucet
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a large class of human-made chemicals originally developed in Minnesota by Maplewood-based 3M back in the 1940s.
Steve Johnson for Pexels

Local governments in Minnesota are asking the state to help fund projects that address new federal drinking water standards for PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The Minnesota Department of Health announced last week that more than 17 communities have higher PFAS levels than the new federal limits.

The Environmental Protection Agency set enforceable drinking water standards last week for “forever chemicals,” as they’re often called. They are human-made and have been manufactured since the 1940s by 3M for a variety of consumer products, including firefighting foam and stain-resistant clothing.

“I just got my notice from the city in the mail today that our water is no longer safe to drink,” said Rep. Shane Hudella, R-Hastings. “Every one of our six water towers has pollutants in it.”

Hudella noted the Minnesota Veterans Home is attached to their water supply.

Hudella was one of three Minnesota House members who introduced public works officials to the House Capital Investment committee to pitch their projects for this year’s bonding bill in the Legislature.  

The city of Hastings is planning to spend $70 million to put filtration systems in the six water towers and are asking the state to spend $20.6 for the first phase of the project.

Woodbury Public Works Director Mary Van Milligen told the panel of lawmaker that her city is in the design phase of constructing a treatment plant for PFAS and requests $7.5 million in state funds for the $19 million project.

“The construction of this water tower will help our city meet peak water demand with nine of our 20 wells currently under health advisories due to PFAS,” Van Milligen said. “And more likely to be in that situation with the new standards.”

The city of Sauk Rapids also asked for some state funding to address PFAS.

Lawmakers also heard from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regarding the cost of cleaning up PFAS in wastewater.

“You can buy PFAS on the open market for somewhere between $50-100,000 per pound,” said Scott Kaiser, an engineer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “But we estimated it costs somewhere between $2.7 and $18 million per pound to remove and destroy PFAS for municipal wastewater.”

Kaiser said the agency evaluated 283 wastewater plants and the cost ranges between $12-25 billion to remove PFAS from municipal wastewater treatment plants in the state.

Some of the communities in the east Twin Cities metro area are getting financial help to address their PFAS problem through the state of Minnesota’s $850 million settlement with 3M, which produced the chemicals for decades. But others are not part of that settlement, and face substantial costs to remove the chemicals from their water supplies.

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