Can money from the recent 3M Settlement be used for personal injury or loss of property value claims?
No, money from this settlement cannot be used for these purposes. These types of claims would typically be settled through a class action suit. The State of Minnesota cannot initiate this type of suit.
Has PFAS reached the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, and if so, what are the expected impacts to the rivers from contamination?
PFAS has reached both the Mississippi and the St. Croix Rivers.
One of the concerns for PFAS in surface water, including the rivers, is accumulation of PFAS in the water, sediments, fish, and the consumption of fish by humans and wildlife. Because PFAS does not biodegrade, any decrease in the levels of PFAS in the water (following a decrease or elimination of a source of contamination) would be due to:
- PFAS moving downstream,
- PFAS entering into and circulating within aquatic food chains, and/or
- PFAS attaching to sediments.
When PFAS attaches to sediments, sediments can act as a continuing source of PFAS to water, fish and biota. That is because the river is a dynamic system where sediment is frequently re-suspended, both naturally and by human-caused activities such as dredging. Aquatic creatures and fish in the water interact with sediments, which both exposes the biota and fish to PFAS and “stirs up” the sediment, potentially releasing sediment-bound PFAS in the water.
The MPCA periodically samples surface water to assess water quality. Results of the 2017 sampling in the Mississippi River indicate PFAS concentrations that exceed drinking water guidelines, surface water quality criteria, and sediment benchmarks in some areas.
Are other states considering the use of working groups, such as the Government and 3M Working Group and Citizen-Business Group?
A number of states have reached natural resource damage settlements and share information about those settlements in hopes of learning from each other. Although every state has its own process, many states do use workgroups to help evaluate potential natural resource restoration projects.
The 3M Settlement is the third largest Natural Resource Damage settlement in U.S. history. Minnesota shared information about the settlement with the State Natural Resource Damage Alliance, of which Minnesota is a member. The Alliance is a group of natural resource damage practitioners that meet and confer on cases, processes, science, negotiations and restoration projects.
For example, Montana entered into a 1999 settlement with ARCO Mining ($130 million) that funded groundwater and aquatic and terrestrial habitat projects. The federal natural resource trustees also have a natural resource damage process, and the states work with the federal trustees in cases that involve federal natural resources.
The 2017 St. Louis River/Interlake/Duluth Tar settlement for $8.2 million was one where Minnesota, along with federal and tribal trustees, settled natural resource damages through restoration projections including aquatic habitat and wild rice restoration. The Deepwater Horizon spill, the largest natural resource damage settlement in the US ($8.1 billion), is similar to the 3M Settlement in that the list of restoration projects were not established prior to the settlement.
Does the DNR or the MPCA already have a list of projects they would like to see implemented?
The DNR and MPCA do not have a list of specific projects they would like implemented. The agencies will collect project ideas that have been generated throughout the East Metro and distribute them to the work groups and subgroups. The agencies will work to implement the projects that meet the priorities set forth in the 2018 Settlement with the 3M Company.
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.