In Minnesota, PFOS and PFOA were manufactured and used at 3M’s Cottage Grove plant, and became part of the waste stream disposed of at three landfills near Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Woodbury. This disposal complied with legal and regulatory requirements and commonly accepted practices at the time. The landfill in Oakdale was used in the 1950s, while the Washington County landfill (near Lake Elmo) was used from 1969 to 1975. The site in Woodbury was used in the early 1960's.
Starting in late 2004, 3M and the Minnesota Department of Health conducted tests of community drinking water in Oakdale, Lake Elmo, North St. Paul, Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Hastings. In Lake Elmo, North St. Paul, Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Hastings, the test results showed no measurable levels of either PFOS or PFOA in municipal wells supplying city water to those communities (using a detection limit of 25 parts per trillion). To put this detection limit in perspective, 25 parts per trillion is the equivalent of one second in 1,280 years or a quarter in ten billion dollars.
In Oakdale, the tests of municipal wells detected these materials at levels generally below the Minnesota Department of Health’s health-based values. The Department of Health defines its health-based values as levels safe to be consumed over a lifetime for all users, including infants, children and pregnant women.
In two Oakdale municipal wells the levels of PFOS were at or above the state's health-based value. As a precautionary measure 3M and the City of Oakdale agreed to install a carbon treatment system on those two municipal wells where some test results have shown the levels of PFOS to be at or slightly above the health-based value. The goal of this treatment system is to enable these wells to remain consistently and reliably within government guidelines (federal or State of Minnesota, whichever are more stringent) for PFOS and PFOA. This system was installed at 3M's expense.
In addition to municipal wells, the Minnesota Department of Health has been testing private residential wells in various parts of Washington County. PFOS and PFOA were not detected in most of the private wells tested. In Lake Elmo, 148 private wells were found to contain PFOS, or PFOS and PFOA combined, at levels above the state’s guidelines. Nearly all of those homes are now connected to Lake Elmo municipal water, which has consistently showed no detectable levels of these materials. This was a precautionary measure to permanently ensure that homes in those areas have a water supply that is consistently and reliably within government standards for PFOS and PFOA. 3M supported this extension by donating land for a new water tower and a grant of $4.3 million to the city.
Throughout the environmental research conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 3M has been working with the state agencies, the City of Oakdale and the City of Lake Elmo by sharing the company’s expertise and historical information about the chemistry. 3M pledges its continued cooperation on this effort.
Update on PFBA
In late 2006, the Minnesota Department of Health using the latest analytical technology tested the municipal wells of Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Hastings, St. Paul Park, Newport and South St. Paul. The test results show the presence at trace levels measured in the low parts per billion, of a chemical called perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA). The levels of PFBA in municipal wells are below the State’s health based-value (HBV) and the drinking water is safe.
Report on Drinking Water - Decatur, Alabama
3M and government agencies in Alabama have tested the drinking water supplies near the 3M plant in Decatur, Alabama. 3M Decatur produced or used PFOS and PFOA during the production era of these materials.
In Alabama, the tests, using a very low detection limit (25 parts per trillion), showed no measurable levels of PFOA or PFOS in the municipal water supply for Decatur, Alabama.
In the late spring of 2009, a civil case against 3M was tried to a jury in Washington County, Minnesota. The jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of 3M, finding that 3M was not negligent, had not committed a trespass on plaintiffs’ properties, and had not caused the plaintiffs to suffer any property damage. The case was originally filed in 2004 based on the presence of trace levels of PFOS and PFOA in the environment. Before the jury trial, the Court denied class action status to the plaintiffs and their legal counsel, and rejected the plaintiffs’ personal injury claims as legally insufficient.
References: Jury Verdict Form and Class Certification Decision
3M is also defending three lawsuits in Alabama and one lawsuit in Florida. One of the Alabama cases (Chandler v. 3M) has been stayed while the first Alabama case (St. John v. 3M) is litigated. In the St. John case, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s personal injury claims and the case is now focused on property damage claims associated with the presence of trace levels of PFOS and PFOA in the environment associated with manufacturing operations at the company’s plant in Decatur, Alabama. The third Alabama case (Stover v. 3M, et al) was filed in early 2009 by property owners claiming to be affected by perfluorochemicals in sludge from the City of Decatur’s sewage treatment facility. That sludge was provided to area farmers for use as fertilizer. 3M and other area companies are working with the U. S. EPA and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) to investigate and address the issue. The Florida case was filed in late July 2009 by the water utility serving Pensacola, Florida against 3M and other companies. We are currently investigating the claims in that case.
The other Minnesota case involves a claim by a developer of an office park in Lake Elmo. 3M has filed a motion to dismiss the claim.
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