Frequently asked questions

More information about the Conceptual Plan can be found here: Final Drinking Water Supply Plan | Minnesota 3M PFC Settlement.

Is my drinking water safe today?

What are the potential risks due to PFAS ?

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is continually studying and analyzing potential health impacts due to PFAS. On-going research continues to lead to a better understanding on the compounds and their potential health risks. Studies in animals have shown some health effects such as changes in development, liver and thyroid function, immune response, and increased kidney weight and cellular changes. Increased tumors were also observed in certain organs in animals exposed to very high doses of PFOA. Research continues on PFAS and health effects such as birth outcomes, hormone balance, cholesterol levels, immune response, and carcinogenicity.  More information can be found on MDH’s webpage.

How do I see if my well was tested?

If you live in a priority testing area, you can request to have your private well water tested. You can search the interactive map, by address, to see if your private well has been tested and, if it has, whether it received a MDH health advisory. If your well has not been tested and you live in the priority sampling area, you can request to have your well tested by filling out and submitting this online form.

Wells with a health advisory are treated using carbon filtraion so that the water is safe to drink. As technologies advance, more PFAS compounds may be detected, and at lower levels. If more compounds are added, or existing ones are lowered, the HI formula will accounty for that. The Conceptual Plan treats wells at half (0.5) of the current HI at the time of the final plan to build in a level or resiliency for potential future changing conditions.

What is a health index for drinking water?

Developed by MDH, the health index (HI) is a method of calculating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) health risk that may be present in drinking water supplies. The PFAS compounds in the calculation include perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), and perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS). When combined, a well with a HI of 1 or greater is issued a health advisory. This includes public and private wells.

Wells with a health advisory are treated using carbon filtration so that the water is safe to drink. As technologies advance, more PFAS compounds may be detected, and at lower levels. If more compounds are added, or existing ones are lowered, the HI formula will account for that. The Conceptual Plan treats wells with an HI of at least 0.5 to build in a level of resiliency for potential future changing conditions.

What is being done about PFAS in drinking water?

Agreements with 3M:

  • 2007 Consent Order – Directs 3M to clean up the disposal sites and pay for the cost for temporary treatment measures until long-term solutions are implemented
  • 2018 Settlement – Funds long-term drinking water projects identified in the Conceptual Drinking Water Supply Plan (Conceptual Plan) and enhances natural resources

If the Settlement funds are depleted, 3M is still obligated, under the 2007 Consent Order, to address PFAS-impacted drinking water wells that have a health index equal to or greater than 1 from 3M disposal sites.

Haven’t PFAS concentrations gone down since clean-up efforts have occurred at the dumps/landfills?

Groundwater pump out systems at the disposal sites are reducing the concentrations of PFAS in groundwater by removing contamination from the aquifer and providing some hydraulic control of the plume. However, there appears to be continued releases of PFAS from the 3M Oakdale site via surface water discharges. Under terms of the 2007 Consent Order, 3M is conducting additional investigations at the Oakdale site to determine if additional cleanup actions may be needed.

Are the plumes moving?

The East Metro has four primary source areas with multiple plumes emanating from each one. Some of these plumes have mixed together above and below ground, such as in the area of Project 1007. Although excavation work occurred in the early phases of investigation and cleanup in the mid-2000's, new PFAS information and additional sampling is providing a broader understanding of the full extent of the plumes. While the source areas have groundwater control systems in-place to reduce the impacts in drinking water, the historic larger extent of the plumes may continue to move over time. In addition, in the areas where PFAS is not fully captured at the source areas, the larger plumes will continue to spread. Due to the regional size of the plumes in multiple aquifers, their size, movement and number of PFAS compounds are continually evaluated.

Why are we seeing PFAS detected in more wells?

PFAS contamination spread for many years before it was identified and cleanup actions began. As a result, PFAS spread beyond the source areas to cover a significant portion of the East Metro. PFAS impacts may continue to move through the region until additional cleanup efforts are implemented  to manage the movement of the plumes.

As investigation and cleanup technologies advance, more PFAS compounds can be detected and at lower levels.  In addition, as more information about the toxicity of various PFAS compounds is available,  drinking water criteria may be reevaluated and change. Drinking water wells will continue to be sampled to help identify if they have been adversely impacted, and help locate where PFAS is present. The movement of the contaminants in the environment combined with new health information, lower detection levels and lower drinking water criteria may increase the number of wells that are considered for treatment.

Won’t the plume just “wash away”?

No, PFAS contamination does not readily break down and can remain in the environment for generations. The complex geology and numerous aquifers in the East Metro allow PFAS to travel extensively over time and distance, sometimes gathering in new areas creating secondary “source areas”. Contamination can move throughout the groundwater aquifers at varying speeds, depths, and directions, but does not “wash away”. Understanding the groundwater movement is key to evaluating technologies that may assist in PFAS cleanup.

While cleanup activities have occurred at the four disposal sites in the East Metro, PFAS remains in the groundwater, surface water, soil, and sediment. PFAS can be transported through these different materials, passing from one to another across great distances and over long periods of time. Once in the ground, PFAS can move easily through drinking water aquifers. Below is a link to a video by Washington County that demonstrates how contamination and groundwater can impact our drinking water.

Video courtesy of Washington County

What about pumping clean water back into the ground, won’t that help?

Drinking-water protection includes both taking care of what comes out of the tap as well as what is in the ground. Pumping clean water back into the ground could potentially help; however, this type of controlled flushing would need to be combined with other cleanup technologies to capture the PFAS adequately.

A feasibility study is being conducted as part of the Project 1007 investigation, and will evaluate various options to reduce PFAS impacts in ground water, surface water, and sediment. The feasibility study will include an evaluation of a system of wells that would extract and treat drinking water resources (groundwater), use the treated water where needed and then re-inject the excess water back into the groundwater aquifers to maintain groundwater levels. This option is referred to as a multi-benefit well system and would be potentially located in the Lake Elmo region.

How will the Settlement funds impact me?

What’s the difference between the Settlement and Consent Order?

The 2007 Consent Order is an agreement between the MPCA and 3M that establishes the scope of cleanup required under Superfund.

The Settlement is a result of a Natural Resources Damage claim lawsuit. The Settlement gives the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) a unique opportunity to go beyond established Superfund cleanup authority. Groundwater is a shared water resource - there is no one solution that will fit all. A broader, holistic perspective, beyond each community’s boundaries, is the best way to analyze options that protect and improve our valuable drinking water resource for all.

The MPCA relies heavily on MDH’s established Health Index of 1 for determining cleanup activities under Superfund and the 2007 Consent Order. Using the Settlement, we can build in a level of resiliency for future changing conditions such as plume movement.

What will the Settlement pay for to enhance drinking water?

For eligible homes/businesses, the Settlement will pay for:

  • Municipal drinking water system with PFAS treatment: Construction of permanent PFAS treatment facility, and operation and maintenance of the PFAS treatment system for wells meeting the selected treatment threshold of ≥ 0.5 of the current HI at the time of the final plan.
  • Residence connecting to a municipal drinking water system: Installation of main water lines and associated infrastructure, restoration of roads/right of way areas, costs for connections to homes, restoration of property damaged during connections, sealing private wells, and removal of whole-house treatment systems, for those private wells meeting the selected treatment threshold. The Settlement will not cover an individual’s monthly/quarterly water bills.
  • Private well with PFAS treatment: Whole-house treatment system for those private wells meeting the selected treatment threshold.

I have a private well – what are my options?

If you have a private well, you can search this interactive map, by address, to see what the final plan recommendation is.

I have a private well, do I have to pay to connect to a municipal system?

For those private wells that are identified to be connected to a municipal system, the Settlement will fund the costs for homeowners that choose to connect, including yard restoration resulting from the connection, properly sealing the private well, and removing the whole-house treatment system.

The Settlement will not fund an individual’s monthly/quarterly water bills.

If I connect to a municipal system, can I keep my private well?

As part of the agreement to connect a home to municipal water, the private well must be sealed; however, there are some exceptions for keeping a private well such as large industrial or agricultural needs. Normal residential lawn/garden watering is not eligible for an exception.

Do I have the option to connect or not connect to the municipal water system?

The State provides private homeowners the option to connect to the municipal system, if that is identified as the long-term option for their home; however, local authorities may have other requirements. Private well owners will need to meet any local rules or requirements before deciding not to connect to the municipal water system.

What if I decide not to connect to a municipal system?

Homeowners that do not connect within two years will be responsible for all costs associated with operating the private well on the property (even if it has a health advisory), all future costs for home connections and well sealing, and all costs associated with whole-house treatment systems.

Residents who choose not to connect to city water and have a whole-house treatment system will assume all costs associated with operating that system. Current costs for annual filter changes are approximately $1,000 per year.  Please refer to the link below for additional information.

If homeowners are given the option, and decide not to connect, will they be forced to pay for connection if they sell their home or move?

Yes, if that is required as part of the sale of the home.

Are the GAC filters used to treat city water different than the ones used to treat household water?

No, municipal treatment systems currently use the same granular activated carbon (GAC) technology as household treatment systems.

I recently replaced the pump motor on my well, will I get reimbursed for it if I decide to connect to city water?

Settlement funds will not include past costs associated with private well maintenance or installation.

When will they start installing water lines?

Installation will depend on communities completing a final design of the water system. Each community or township will develop and implement their own plan. It will take several years for full implementation.

My home is in the trichloroethene (TCE) health advisory area, but just outside of the PFAS-contaminated area. Am I eligible to get connected to city water?

As outlined in the Settlement agreement, the funds are to be used for PFAS-impacted areas. The water supply system may, however, be designed for future expansion into areas impacted by TCE should a community decide to do that on its own.

Please explain drinking water protection.

Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for nearly 174,000 residents in the east metro area. When groundwater is contaminated, our ability to use it for drinking water is compromised. As part of the Settlement, funds are being allocated to help protect drinking water in the East Metro area by treating groundwater and ensuring areas not currently impacted stay safe for drinking water purposes. Investigations are underway to help determine the best ways to treat groundwater in the area.

A multi-prong approach – addressing drinking water at the tap AND at the source (groundwater) – will ensure that groundwater is protected and will remain a safe, sustainable resource for the future.

What happens if the Settlement runs out of money?

The 2007 Consent Order will remain in place; however, the Consent Order only covers costs for wells that meet or exceed MDH’s established health index and receive a drinking water health advisory. Owners of any wells, public or private, that are below MDH’s health index and do not have a health advisory, will be responsible for maintaining carbon treatment, if desired.

 

Can 3M challenge the final Conceptual Plan in court?

The Settlement gives the State the sole discretion for determining and funding projects based on the priorities outlined in the Settlement.

3M could, however, challenge the State’s selection or implementation of projects under the Settlement Agreement. The agreement has provisions on how disputes between the State and 3M are resolved.