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3M cleanup pledge questioned

Published (2/22/2008)
By Nick Busse
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Several members of a House subcommittee expressed frustration that the 3M Corporation will not be paying a larger share of the cost of cleaning up a landfill that has been leeching chemical pollutants into the east metro drinking water supply.

The House Drinking Water Source Protection Subcommittee met Feb. 19 to discuss bonding recommendations for the Pollution Control Agency. Among the topics of discussion was a $15 million request for remediation work at the Washington County Landfill, which is contaminated by perfluorochemicals (PFCs) that are presumed to have been manufactured by 3M.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has asked the Legislature to approve the request, which would be supplemented by an additional $8 million pledged by 3M, to help clean up the Lake Elmo site. Several legislators expressed concern that the state’s taxpayers are being asked to pay for more than their fair share.

“I don’t know why they (taxpayers) should be paying when they were not responsible and they didn’t know about it,” said Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls).

Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) said that 3M, as the primary — possibly the sole — source of the contamination, should contribute more to the cost of the remediation.

Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) agreed that 3M should be pressured to put up additional money for the project, but also praised the company’s willingness to negotiate, as well as their overall contribution to the state’s economy over the years.

“They’ve been admitting that we’ve got to deal with this problem and I think they’re doing it in a positive way,” McNamara said.

Other members questioned the method that’s being proposed to clean up the site.

Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo) has introduced a bill that would appropriate an as-yet-undetermined amount of bond money to fund alternative cleanup methods; however, Bunn said that whatever solution is ultimately chosen, action needs to be taken as soon as possible.

“From the citizen’s perspective, what’s most important is that we move this along,” Bunn said.

Bunn’s bill, HF3232, awaits action by the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division. There is no Senate companion.

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