Met Council Joins State Lawsuit Against 3M

The Met Council has joined an ongoing lawsuit seeking damages from 3M for alleged environmental effects stemming from its disposal of chemicals.

The Metropolitan Council on Monday announced that it has joined a state lawsuit against 3M Company and is seeking damages to cover the $1 billion that it might cost to remove a chemical formerly used in 3M products whose disposal has allegedly polluted the Mississippi River.

A federal mandate requires that the state clean up impaired waters like the Mississippi River-and it led the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to propose strict limits on the amount of perfluorochemicals (PFCs) that can be discharged from wastewater treatment plants.

The Met Council, which had been weighing its legal options against Maplewood-based 3M for some time, oversees wastewater plants in the metro area that send water into the Mississippi River. The council estimates that it will cost at least $1 billion to remove the chemicals and comply with the new regulation-a cost that could result in a 40 percent hike in sewer fee rates.

Bill Moore, general manager for the council's environmental services division, told the Star Tribune that the issue currently only affects the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul, the state's largest. Eventually, two more treatment plants that dump water into the Mississippi will also be required to be cleaned up, which could cost billions more, he told the newspaper.

A 3M official, meanwhile, told the Star Tribune that the company is not the only source of PFCs in the environment, and its efforts to remove them are making a positive difference. 3M also recently released a study that found that contamination has decreased significantly in the last few years, and results show the river is no longer impaired due to cleanup efforts paid for by 3M, according to the Star Tribune.

The Met Council said that it is reviewing 3M's report, but the “impaired” designation of the river will remain in place until the MPCA determines it's no longer necessary.

3M used PFCs in the production of several consumer, commercial, and industrial products, including stain repellents like Scotchguard, fire retardants, paints, and chemical products. 3M stopped producing PFCs in Minnesota in 2002 following negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Last December, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against 3M in an attempt to force the company to pay the state for damages caused by its disposal of PFCs. The Met Council said that the City of Lake Elmo, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the MPCA have also joined the lawsuit.

To learn more about the lawsuit, the history of PFC use, and the costs of environmental cleanup, read this report by the Star Tribune.