City will have to act fast to fight PFAS

By John McLoone
Posted 8/31/23

Drinking water sources in Minnesota currently facing contamination from PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl solution) contamination represent only about 1 percent of drinking water in the state.  

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City will have to act fast to fight PFAS


Drinking water sources in Minnesota currently facing contamination from PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl solution) contamination represent only about 1 percent of drinking water in the state. 

Hastings City Councilmember Tina Folch chairs the League of Minnesota Cities Delivery Service Policy Committee. She told city councilmembers and administrators at the Monday, Aug. 21 Hastings City Council meeting that municipalities facing PFAS cleanup plan to work together to seek funding to play to fight the contamination. PFAS are human-made chemicals that don’t break down in the environment and can build up and stay in the human body for many years and can cause cancer and other serious illness, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Most of the affected water systems are in the Metropolitan Twin Cities area, and industrial giant 3M’s operations are seen as the source of the contamination in groundwater. 3M has reached state and national settlements that Hastings hopes to be able to tap into, as it needs to come up with $69 million over the next few years to build three new water treatment plants to treat water in its wells. 

Folch said state leaders from the Department of Health and state Pollution Control spoke to the League of Minnesota Cities panel recently. 

“As we know, we’re facing a $69 million price tag for the three treatment plants to deal with the PFAS situation,” said Folch. “It was interesting. They said when they look at all of the state municipal water sources that they had been testing, which was the vast majority. They had tested 900. They believe that the new federal and state regulations coming forward with PFAS, they only affect less than 1 percent of the population in our state. Unfortunately, we’re in that one percent of cities being affected by this issue.” 

While PFAS levels in Hastings’ drinking water are currently considered safe, new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines are expected to be adopted in Minnesota this year, and that won’t be the case in all city wells at that time. 

“They’ve identified all of the municipal water sources that are going to be in trouble like we are when they make the changes with the lowering of the acceptable standards,” Folch said. “They realize there’s not nearly enough aid. There’s not enough funding that will cover those cities with this issue.” 

Despite that fact, Hastings and other municipalities need to act fast. 
“Once the federal rules go into place and the state goes into alignment with those standards, there’s only going to be two years, maybe three years for all of those cities to be in compliance with the new standards. There might only by a two-year window to come into compliance,” said Folch. “I thought it was really interesting they recognize there’s not enough funds.” 

Folch said cities need to “work together collaboratively with the state in figuring out funding sources that may be available.” 

“I’m going to follow up on that and pull our city staff and mayor into it. I really believe we should be working together to try to work this out with the state and leverage as much funding as we can if there’s just a handful of cities that are in this position,” Folch said. 

The Hastings City Council held a workshop to talk about the PFAS contamination earlier this month. Hastings is expending money on a consulting firm now to have plans ready to go on phasing in construction of the three water treatment plants in coming years when funding becomes available. 

The city is working with its two local State Legislators, State Rep. Shane Hudella and State Sen. Judy Seeberger. The city is hoping for a share of a $25 million fund Gov. Tim Walz set aside for the PFAS battle. The city also has applied for $60 million through the state bonding program for 2024. City staff is also working to try to tap into the 3M funding and is awaiting state testing to confirm the manufacturer as the source of the city’s PFAS contamination from its Cottage Grove facility.