By Bruce Karnick [email protected] Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, more commonly known as 3M, has been in a bit of hot water the past few years. Discoveries have been made regarding the …
By Bruce Karnick
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, more commonly known as 3M, has been in a bit of hot water the past few years. Discoveries have been made regarding the disposal of waste from their manufacturing in the region affecting water quality as far south as Cottage Grove. Now the company is facing fines for numerous alleged hazardous waste violations at its Cottage Grove plant and incinerator according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
The main issue was a release of hydrofluoric acid, and extremely toxic and heavily regulated hazardous waste. The 2019 release came from corroded barrels along with numerous alleged violations regarding 3M’s handling and storage of other hazardous waste in Cottage Grove.
The explosion at Husky Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin in 2018 had first responders focused on where hydrofluoric acid was stored as it has long been used at refineries. The danger with hydrofluoric acid is, if contact is made with flesh, it begins to bind with calcium in the body. Just a few drops can kill an adult within minutes. An explosion due to fire would render it airborne. According to experts, breathing in the vapors of this chemical would be the last breath taken.
Seven companies in Minnesota have hydrofluoric acid on site, with the largest amount at the Marathon Petroleum refinery in St. Paul Park. Yes, the same refinery that has locked out their workers since January. The second largest amount is kept at 3M’s Cottage Grove plant.
The MPCA announced an enforcement agreement with 3M Wednesday regarding the company’s failure to properly record, store, inspect, and dispose of hundreds of barrels of hazardous waste at its manufacturing and waste incineration facility in Cottage Grove. As part of the agreement, 3M completed 15 corrective measures and paid $80,000 in civil penalties for its violations.
Senator Karla Bigham 54 (DFL-Cottage Grove) released the following statement: “Today’s announcement reveals a shocking and egregious disregard for the health and safety of residents of Cottage Grove and the environment from 3M. We should expect corporations to follow the rules and adhere to the guidelines necessary to keep people safe, and yet 3M has once again ignored this responsibility. While corrective action has been taken, $80,000 is an asinine penalty for the level of misconduct and irresponsibility that was displayed. I am aware of additional 3M compliance investigations and look forward to the release of those findings and enforcement decisions once completed by the MPCA. I will work with my partners in the legislature and the state to ensure that 3M is held accountable for these actions and that future penalties are much higher.”
State Representatives Keith Franke 54A (RSt. Paul Park) and Tony Jurgens 54B (R-Cottage Grove) issued the following statement after learning of MPCA’s two-year investigation into 3M’s Cottage Grove facility.
“3M has been a longtime, valued employer in our community, but the health and safety of our residents is always paramount. We are disappointed to learn of these hazardous waste findings by the MPCA, but are glad 3M has accepted responsibility and reached an enforcement agreement with the agency. 3M has a duty to be a good environmental steward. In this instance, it failed, and the people of Cottage Grove and Washington County deserve and expect better from this company.”