3M Co. will probably pay between $50 million and $56 million to clean up sites in the eastern Twin Cities that have been contaminated by chemicals that were once used in some of the company’s best-known products.
The plans for each site include several ways to get rid of the perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, in water and soil. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is evaluating the options and will make recommendations in early May.
“They propose, and we pick,” MPCA spokesman Ralph Pribble said.
3M Co. began producing PFCs in 1947 for use in products including Teflon and Scotchgard stain repellant. The company legally disposed of PFC byproducts in landfills, a normal practice at the time. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, scientists found traces of the chemicals in people and animals around the world, and 3M stopped making PFCs in 2002.
Traces of the chemicals were found in drinking water in Washington County in 2004, but it was never clear how much of a health threat the chemicals posed.
Feasibility studies to clean up three sites include maximum costs of $15 million for the former Chemolite plant in Cottage Grove; $10.6 million for a dump site in southern Woodbury; and $7.4 million for an Oakdale site.
In addition, 3M has already spent or is committed to spending $8 million to help clean up the Washington County Landfill in Lake Elmo; $10 million for installing filters for Oakdale city water and connecting some Lake Elmo homes to city water; and $5 million to the MPCA to analyze the effects of PFCs on humans and the environment.
The company set aside $147 million in 2006 to deal with “environmental liabilities,” including the PFC spills. The company stopped making PFCs in 2002, but in 2000 alone the manufacture and sale of PFCs was a $300 million business for 3M, according to the company.
“3M has adequate resources to do the job right. That is my main message,” company spokesman Bill Nelson said.
The $56 million figure does not include 3M’s cost of defending lawsuits from potentially more than 1,000 plaintiffs who claim the chemicals hurt them. Also not included in the figure is the amount the state will spend to clean up the Washington County landfill in Lake Elmo.
That site has soil with leftover PFCs, but 3M is not obligated to clean it because the state took legal responsibility for the landfill years ago. Still, Nelson said 3M will contribute $8 million for that site out of the total cleanup tab of $23 million. The Legislature is considering a bill authorizing the remaining $15 million.
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