With costs for fighting PFAS forever chemicals in the water supply projected at $69 million, the Hastings City Council voted Monday night to opt out of national class action settlements with 3M and …
With costs for fighting PFAS forever chemicals in the water supply projected at $69 million, the Hastings City Council voted Monday night to opt out of national class action settlements with 3M and Du Pont.
Hastings and Minnesota Pollution Control experts are trying to provide a link between the 3M plant just north of Hastings in Cottage Grove and PFAS in the drinking water. The company has been forced to pay the expense of water treatment operations in several communities, including in Cottage Grove. The Minnesota Department of Health sent out an alert over the summer for pregnant women, children and the elderly not to eat fish from the Mississippi River from St. Paul through Hastings, including Hastings’ Lake Rebecca.
Class action settlements against the two companies are expected in the US District Court in South Carolina. 3M would pay $10.5 to $12.5 billion, and DuPont would pay $1.2 billion. Settlements would be minus legal fees and costs and would be paid over nine years.
City Administrator Dan Wietecha predicted Hastings could receive between $2.7 and $4.6 million from 3M and $260,000-$440,000 from DuPont.
If Hastings accepts the settlement money, it would agree not to suit 3M or DuPont in the future.
“We are presently working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency ‘superfund’ process for additional investigation to determine if there is a direct link from the 3M Cottage Grove disposal site and Hastings’ drinking water supply,” Wietecha wrote in a memo to the city council.
The city had to formally opt out or it would automatically be included in the settlements. The DuPont deadline is Dec. 4, and the 3M deadline is Dec. 11.
A memo to the city from Minneapolis law firm Larkin Hoffman states that the city could take legal action directly against 3M.
“There are alternative ways Hastings can pursue funds for its drinking water project. If Hastings opts out of the Settlement Agreement, it could separately pursue 3M for damages. If Hastings can trace its contamination to a 3M manufacturing site, it has a greater chance of bringing 3M directly to the table to discuss a settlement specifically for Hastings,” the memo states. “But, without a full understanding of the source of contamination, it is hard to predict the likelihood of successful litigation. Also, any litigation will likely involve a fair amount of upfront costs for research and drafting in order to prepare and initiate a lawsuit.”
The firm also states Hastings should continue to try to get funding from a 2018 3M Settlement Grant and from the Minnesota Legislature.
The Hastings City Council held a workshop meeting in May to discuss the PFAS fight and its plans to build three treatment plants in 2024 to battle the forever chemicals. PFAS are manmade chemicals used by manufacturers of many products that can cause cancer if consumed.
As part of the process, Minnesota Pollution Control plans to put in observation wells to determine if 3M is the source of the Hastings problem, but that has yet to happen.
“Where do the PFAS come from? That’s the question we’ve been trying to get an answer on for a year,” City Engineer and Public Works Director Ryan Stempski said at the workshop meeting. “We need a connection to 3M to tap into settlement funds,” said Stempski. “They’re trying to find the connection.”
The city is working with consultants to develop granular activated carbon systems that have been shown to effectively remove PFAS from drinking water. St. Paul Park has put in a similar treatment plant to fight 3M PFAS in its water.
The city wants to be able to hit the ground running on construction when funding becomes available and to be able to use funding to recoup what it is spending now to plan for fighting PFAS.
Stempski said treatment plants would be built and phased in starting next year through 2027.
“Potentially we could start in 2024,” he said.
Phase one would treat wells six and eight, where concentration is highest and would be built at the well six site. Phase two would be a plant for wells three, five and seven to be built at well three. Phase three would be built for wells four and nine. While nine doesn’t yet exist is expected to be needed in 2026 because of residential growth, in city estimates.
In addition to the nearly-$70 million cost of building the treatment plants, operational costs would be $800,000-$1 million annually.