The court-approved agreement settling the lawsuit specifies how the grant from 3M can be spent by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Natural resources (DNR). It sets two top priorities for funding and provides guidelines for using any remaining money after those two issues are adequately addressed. It also directs the MPCA and DNR to set up a working group to guide use of the funds.
Priority one — Ensure safe drinking water
With PFCs having contaminated domestic water supplies in a number of southeast metro communities, the top priority for grant funds will be projects aimed at providing a clean, sustainable supply of drinking water in the area. These projects will be primarily focused on the cities of Afton, Cottage Grove, Lake Elmo, Newport, Oakdale, St. Paul Park, Woodbury and the townships of Grey Cloud Island and West Lakeland. Projects in other communities may also be considered.
Funded projects will help provide residents and businesses with enough clean drinking water to meet current and future needs. Such efforts could include providing alternative sources of drinking water for cities or private well owners, treating drinking water from existing wells, or connecting homes served by private wells to municipal drinking water systems.
Grant funds also could support efforts to assure a sustainable supply of drinking water, with projects such as promoting water conservation or acquiring open spaces that help recharge drinking water sources more quickly.
Priority two — Enhance natural resources
The second priority for grant spending is to enhance aquatic resources, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreational opportunities in the east metropolitan area, or downstream of the area on the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers. Such projects might include restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat, building boat ramps and fishing piers to provide access to fish unaffected by PFC contamination, or cleaning up contaminated river sediments.
The MPCA and DNR will have immediate access to $20 million in grant funds for projects in this priority category. After the safe drinking water goals of the first priority are reasonably achieved, more grant money can be used for natural resource projects.
Remaining settlement funds
As a practical matter, it will be several years from now, at the earliest, before any statewide projects would be considered for funding. This is because of the substantial needs outlined in the top two priorities. This portion of the settlement language was included to address whatever small portion of funds may remain at the end of exhaustive work on the top priorities.
If funds remain after the first two priority goals have been met, they can be used for statewide environmental projects. Only projects that benefit statewide water resources, habitat restoration, open space preservation, recreation improvements, or other sustainability projects would be considered.