By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A $700 million dollar plan is in place to help more than a dozen Twin Cities suburbs with contaminated drinking water, following a state settlement with 3M.

For decades, the company legally dumped chemicals at four different sites in the east metro. Those chemicals got into the ground-and drinking water.

READ MORE: MPCA: ‘Almost Every Closed Landfill It Oversees’ Has PFAS Groundwater Contamination

“Our drinking water is a precious resource and one we take for granted,” Minnesota Pollution Control Agency temporary commissioner Peter Tester said.

It’s estimated that 174,000 people living in the east metro have had their groundwater impacted by 3M’s PFAS contamination. The chemical was designed to make 3M products resistant to heat, oil, stains, and grease — but it seeped into the water supply.

“The residents of the East Metro did not ask for PFAS contamination from 3M. Farmers and residents that live near one of the 60 closed landfills throughout the state with high levels of PFAS in their groundwater, they too did not ask for their water to be contaminated,” Tester said.

As a result, the MPCA and the Department of Natural Resources are announcing a long-term plan to protect East Metro drinking water. It aims to build or improve six water treatment plants and treat 33 municipal wells. As part of the plan, nearly 300 homes will also be connected to municipal water systems, and hundreds of homes with private wells will be given their own filtration systems.

READ MORE: Chemical Foam In Twin Cities Waterways Sparks Warning From MPCA, MDH

The settlement with 3M will be used to fund improvements in cities like Cottage Grove, Lake Elmo, Maplewood and others. The goal is safe drinking water now and for generations to come.

“The agencies will also continue to work closely with the local communities and work groups to regularly assess the effectiveness of the plan going forward and, if needed, make adjustments along the way,” DNR assistant commissioner Jess Richards said.

The state settled with 3M in 2018 for $850 million in damages to Minnesota’s natural resources.

3M released the following statement:

In early 2018, 3M placed $850M into the 3M Grant for Water Quality and Sustainability Fund to enable the State of Minnesota to implement projects that are reasonable and necessary to execute three agreed upon priorities. The first and highest priority is to enhance the quality, quantity, and sustainability of the drinking water in the East Metropolitan Area.

The state’s announced proposal is an important step in fulfilling 3M and the State of Minnesota’s long-term goals for the environment and community through the 3M Grant for Water Quality and Sustainability Fund. We look forward to continued engagement in this discussion.

John Lauritsen