3M keeps an eye on groundwater quality in Lake Elmo

New water line construction to begin this summer

3M Company will continue to monitor groundwater quality in the Lake Elmo Park Reserve. 
The Washington County Board of Commissioners recently granted the Maplewood-based company access to the park reserve to conduct testing for perfluorochemicals in the groundwater.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requested that 3M install a single monitoring well in the Whistling Valley residential development of Lake Elmo to collect perfluorochemical data from the Jordan aquifer in 2008. The neighborhood is immediately south of the park.
Washington County parks manager Mike Polehna said the well does not provide drinking water to homes, but is a special well 3M installed to conduct testing for PFCs.  
3M has been testing groundwater since the well was installed just south of Eagle Point Lake near the park's southern boundary. The agreement between the county and 3M, renewed on Jan. 6, will allow the company access onto park property, and states that all activities conducted by 3M on park property is at 3M's expense and risk. The company now has access to the property to conduct testing through the end of 2016.
However, that agreement could end prior to that if the MPCA decides no further monitoring is required and closes the testing site, according to a Washington County news release. When well monitoring activities have been completed, 3M will restore the land back to its previous condition at its own cost. 
Lake Elmo withdraws from lawsuit
3M manufactured PFCs at its Chemolite facility in Cottage Grove from the 1940s until 2002, and legally disposed of the chemicals at several landfills in Washington County. The compounds were used for heat resistance in some Teflon and Scotchgard products prior to knowledge that they could pose health risks.
The state filed a lawsuit against 3M in December 2010, alleging the disposal of PFCs caused contaminated groundwater in several locations in the county, including Lake Elmo and Oakdale. 
The state said the chemicals have contaminated municipal and private wells in the east metro and said PFCs have also been found in drinking aquifers that supplied water to some residents in Lake Elmo, Oakdale, Woodbury and Cottage Grove. 
Many of those wells have been sealed off and 3M has worked with the city of Oakdale to install a carbon treatment facility in Oakdale and with the MPCA to clean up the former Washington County Landfill site in Lake Elmo.
Lake Elmo withdrew from the groundwater pollution lawsuit filed against 3M in August 2013, electing instead to enter into a tolling agreement that would allow the city to "cease ongoing legal action" and "collaboratively review facts and scientific data relating to groundwater quality" with 3M, according to a statement from the city released in 2013. 
In a 2013 interview with the Review, city administrator Dean Zuleger said the tolling agreement would not limit the city's ability to pursue legal action in the future, and would provide an opportunity for city officials to talk to 3M about groundwater pollution in a collaborative way.
New water line on the way soon
At the end of the last legislative session, state lawmakers included $3.5 million in state bonding to build a 2 1/2-mile water main line to run down Inwood Avenue to the Interstate 94 corridor -- the area affected by PFC groundwater contamination. 
Zuleger said the new water line -- which will bring clean drinking water from the northern part of the city to the southwest quadrant -- would be constructed beginning this summer, with completion expected by the end of the year.
"Because we have an area of the community where water quality fluctuates we will bring clean water in from north to south," he said. "We are not going to be putting in a well where we know has been adulterated with PFCs."
The city also plans to build a second water main line running down Lake Elmo Avenue. The $3.5 million in state funds will cover about 40 percent of the costs for those two projects.
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.
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