Minnesota landfills are leaching 'forever chemicals'

by Peter LaFontaine
Many east metro areas have PFAS-contaminated water supplies. Unfortunately, PFAS have been confirmed to be leaking from landfills throughout the state.

As reported by Kirsti Marohn of MPR, investigators with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have found alarming evidence of PFAS, so-called "forever chemicals," leaching from dozens of closed landfills around the state.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of chemicals used in nonstick cookware, carpeting, and other commercial and industrial products. Minnesota's own 3M Corporation pioneered applications of the technology, celebrated for its durability, in the 1950s. As their modern moniker suggests, these chemicals don't break down.  

They're linked to some cancers, congenital disabilities, kidney disease and other disorders. And they can affect both humans and wildlife. (If you fish, be sure to check the state's site-specific guidelines before heading out. Many metro-area lakes and Mississippi River tributaries have fishing restrictions due to "forever chemical" contamination.) 

In 2018, 3M settled a lawsuit brought by the State of Minnesota, agreeing to pay $850 million to remediate PFAS contamination that has contaminated drinking water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people in the eastern metro. Recently, though, 3M has made headlines for fighting back against some of the state's project proposals.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's recent findings show that the problem goes well beyond the Twin Cities area. In comments to MPR News, agency commissioner Laura Bishop noted that “[t]hese closed landfills are throughout the state. They are in suburbs, greater Minnesota regional centers and small rural communities. They are next to our homes, our businesses and our farms."

At one site, Gofer Landfill in Marin County, test results showed PFAS surging to 1,300 times higher than the state's health limit; thankfully, nearby drinking water sources did not appear to be affected yet.

Experts warn that PFAS are a problem wherever the chemicals are discarded, not just the sites at the center of the agency's study. 

Next steps

As we learn more about these dangerous substances, it's imperative that we absorb the lessons and act quickly.

Several PFAS-related bills are being debated in the Minnesota Legislature. FMR supports efforts to hold corporations accountable for their past actions, pay for cleanup efforts, and continue to gather valuable information about where and how they are affecting our priceless drinking water. We've also been advocating that the state require Ford Motor Company to test for PFAS at their former dumpsite along the river in St. Paul ("Ford Area C"). 

Sign up to become a River Guardian and we'll let you know when PFAS-related and other important river issues arise at the Legislature or in the metro river corridor. We make it quick and easy to contact decision-makers and make your voice heard. 


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