3M Files Counterclaim Against Met Council Over Pollution

The state and the Metropolitan Council sued 3M, alleging that chemicals manufactured by the company have caused environmental damage-and 3M has filed a counterclaim, which argues that the Met Council dumps chemicals into the river from its seven waste treatment plants.

3M Company has reportedly responded to allegations that its chemicals have caused expensive environmental damage by filing a counterclaim stating that if it is found liable, the Metropolitan Council also should be required to pay.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson in December 2010 filed a lawsuit against Maplewood-based 3M in an attempt to force the company to pay the state for damages caused by its disposal of perfluorochemicals (PFCs). In November, the Metropolitan Council announced that it had joined the lawsuit and is seeking damages to cover the $1 billion that it might cost to remove the chemicals, which were formerly used in 3M products.

According to a report by the Pioneer Press, 3M has now turned the tables: Its counterclaim argues that if the company is found liable for polluting the Mississippi River, the Met Council should also pay, because it dumps chemicals into the river from its treatment plants.

A federal mandate requires that the state clean up impaired waters like the Mississippi River-and it led to the proposal of strict limits on the amount of PFCs that can be discharged from wastewater treatment plants. The Met Council oversees wastewater plants in the metro area that send water into the Mississippi River, and it estimates that it will cost at least $1 billion to remove the chemicals-a cost that could result in a 40 percent hike in sewer fee rates.

3M claims to have spent $100 million to clean up ground and river water during the past decade, in “sharp contrast to the Met Council's inaction,” the Pioneer Press reported. The company has said that it stopped making the chemicals in 2002-and an attorney for the company is reportedly arguing that if there are still PFCs in the water a decade later, they must be coming from other sources, such as factories or households.

The company claims that wastewater from such sources must be finding its way into the Met Council's treatment plants, and the council should be held liable because it dumps chemicals into the river from those plants, the Pioneer Press reported.