ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Metropolitan Council on Monday joined the state of Minnesota's lawsuit against 3M Co., seeking damages from the Minnesota manufacturing giant for alleged environmental consequences tied to its disposal of chemicals once used to make Scotchgard.
Officials with the Twin Cities regional planning agency said it faces spending many millions of dollars in the coming years to conform to new state regulations for discharging perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, from its wastewater treatment plants into the Mississippi River. The Met Council holds 3M responsible for those new regulations because of its one-time practice of discharging such chemicals into the environment.
PFC was used in the production of the fabric protection treatment known as Scotchgard, and other products. The company stopped using the chemicals in 2002, but before that, over the course of 50 years, it had buried them in landfills in the eastern Twin Cities area and piped them into a stream that flowed into the Mississippi River.
The lawsuit filed late last year by state Attorney General Lori Swanson alleges that as a result, more than 100 square miles of groundwater were left contaminated with consequences from drinking wells to fish. In addition, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking new limits on the levels of such chemicals in runoff from wastewater plants — new standards that can be traced directly to 3M's actions, according to Met Council officials.
Bill Moore, the agency's general manager of environmental services, estimated it would cost ratepayers to the Met Council's wastewater plants about $1 billion in additional utility costs over the next 20 years. He said council leaders decided to join the state's lawsuit to ensure its interests are represented as the suit works through the legal system.
"We are surprised by this decisoin, given that PFCs have not been proven to cause harm to humans or the environment — at the levels we see in the environment," Michael Nash, 3M association general counsel, said in a statement. "It is important to note 3M is not the only source of PFCs in the environment and we believe our efforts to remove them from the environment are making a positive difference."