$2.7 million and 180 acres: Lake Elmo settles with 3M


Lake Jane in Lake Elmo. The city announced it reached a settlement to end its lawsuit against 3M over pollutants the company made that were found in Lake Elmo groundwater. (file photo)

After decades of contamination findings, lawsuits and finger-pointing, Lake Elmo and 3M have reached a resolution. 

The city announced it settled its current suit against the Maplewood-based Fortune 500 company in a May 21 statement. To have the U.S. District Court suit dismissed by Lake Elmo, 3M agreed to pay the city $2.7 million and transfer 180 acres of land to it. 

“The City is anxious to put this matter behind us and is looking forward to working together with 3M to ensure safe drinking water for our residents and businesses,” Lake Elmo City Council member Justin Bloyer said in the statement. 

“We are committed to working with communities to protect our natural resources,” John Banovetz, senior vice president of 3M research and development and 3M chief technology officer, said in the statement.

The $2.7 million will be credited to the construction, maintenance and operation of Lake Elmo’s water system, according to the statement. Lake Elmo will determine the best use for the 180 acres, which is located near the city’s public works facility on Laverne Avenue.

 

Previous restitution, original contamination 

To replace a well contaminated with a 3M-manufactured chemical, Lake Elmo announced in March it was to receive some $2 million from the State of Minnesota. The exact amount is still being ironed out. 

The money comes from a $850 million grant 3M paid in 2018 to settle a different lawsuit filed by the state.

Regulators become aware that perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, which 3M produced from the 1940s until 2002, were harmful to people around 2000. The chemicals, used to make tough coatings like Teflon, had already been found in groundwater since the 1960s. 

3M restitution began with an agreement between the company and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2007. It spelled out what 3M was responsible for and included a $40 million settlement for short-term drinking water needs. 

In 2010, Minnesota sued 3M, alleging the company’s production of PFCs damaged drinking water and natural resources in the Twin Cities metro. 3M settled in February 2018 with the $850 grant, $720 million of which will go to impacted cities like Lake Elmo.

A month later in March 2018, Lake Elmo was informed by the MPCA, Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health that one of its wells had been contaminated. The city immediately shut down the well and cleared its water tower. Last summer, the state filled the tower.

 

—Solomon Gustavo

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