59 Closed Landfills In 41 Counties Have Contamination That Exceeds State's Health GuidanceBy WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Closed landfills across Minnesota are leaking potentially-dangerous chemicals.

Now, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking the legislature for help to clean them up.

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Nearly 60 closed landfills have groundwater contamination above state health standards. The “Closed Landfill Program,” which is funded by taxpayers, monitors fluids and gases that can pollute groundwater.

The MPCA has found the level of PFAS exceed state health-based guidance values by at least 10 times. The chemical is found in everything from carpets to clothing. There is growing evidence the “forever chemical” can cause health issues, like cancer and liver damage.

The MPCA is asking the legislature to free up some of that closed-landfill money to give them more flexibility to test water wells and treat problems that pop up with the sites — like an underground fire at one closed Shakopee landfill last year.

The state is still working on testing drinking water near those landfills. So how do you know if your water is safe? When you fill a glass of tap water, you think you’d be able to know if it was unsafe to drink — but not with PFAS chemicals, according to Karla Peterson, supervisor of the community public water supply unit at the Minnesota Department of Health.

“PFAS has no smell, no taste, no color,” Peterson said.

After the MPCA found the pollutants in the groundwater under dozens of former landfills, WCCO asked if they can get into the drinking supply.

(credit: CBS)

“It can. That’s part of the monitoring that we’re looking at,” Peterson said.

WCCO also spoke with Katrina Kessler, assistant commissioner for water policy and agriculture at the MPCA.

“Most people aren’t drinking water that is, you know, right adjacent to a landfill, but it is still troubling that these facilities are leaking,” Kessler said.

READ MORE: Minnesota Rolls Out Plan To Clean Up 'Forever Chemicals'

MDH is largely in charge of testing our drinking water. It does regularly test for PFAS, but typically doesn’t find dangerous levels, though Peterson says there is a noticeable pattern.

“Almost every detection above the guidance value has been linked to some sort of site or some sort of potential contamination location,” Peterson said. “Proximity matters a lot.”

So how can you make sure the water in your area is safe to drink?

“Testing can cost between $250 to $550,” Peterson said.

Instead, MDH recommends a simple pitcher with a carbon filter to weed out PFAS, even though the label may say it won’t.

“They do show removal, it’s just that they can’t necessarily guarantee it. So we’ve had tests done that show it can remove,” Peterson said.

As the state wrestles with expensive cleanup and potential health hazards, some say we need to take a harsher look at our habits.

“These contaminants are in almost everything we’re using. This is ubiquitous in commerce. You’re going to find it in food wrappers, you’re going to find it in furniture. And when you throw those things away, they don’t just magically go away,” Kessler said. “Think about prevention, because cleanup is so expensive, and the challenge in front of the state now is enormous.”

MDH says it will take a few months to test the drinking water near the closed landfills. The city or municipality will notify residents if they find anything concerning.

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Click here for more information on MDH’s website.