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Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Widens Monitoring On PFAs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A state agency has come up with a new plan to monitor what some call "forever chemicals" in nearly 400 facilities, places like industrial plants, landfills and regional airports.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will initially focus on detecting PFAS (or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance) chemicals in the air emissions and water. They can be found in everything from cosmetics to cookware, and they've been showing up in Minnesota's air, lakes and drinking water. Scientists say that they can cause serious health problems.

The overall goal is to protect Minnesotans from PFAS contamination, which have been linked to birth defects and cancer risks.

"Twelve months ago, Minnesota laid out a comprehensive, long-term plan to protect families and communities from harmful PFAS contamination," MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler said. "This monitoring plan is the next phase of our commitment to better understand where and how PFAS is entering Minnesota's environment."

Minnesota PFAS Blueprint 1 Year Later by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on YouTube

The City of Woodbury built a temporary treatment plant to remove pollutants called PFAS in groundwater. PFAS were manufactured by 3M for decades and legally dumped in different sites in the east metro. Some got into the drinking water in the area.

"PFAS are unfortunately known as 'forever chemicals' -- they stick in the environment, and that's what makes them so useful in some products," MPCA commissioner Katrina Kessler said. "They can accumulate in the liver, cause endocrine disruption, even cause some types of cancer."

Also, the chemical can accumulate in fish and potentially cause poor health effects in people who eat them. Bde Maka Ska is among the Minnesota lakes that have been found to have PFAS contamination.

"We are really trying to find where we have PFAS challenges and ways to avoid them, and replace PCAS products upstream or minimize sources of PFAS," Kessler said.

Among the regional airports being looked at are Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, International Falls, Hibbing, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls. The MPCA says that they have PFAS-containing firefighting foam on site, which is currently required.

The pollution agency is also looking at 91 wastewater treatment plants, including six in the Twin Cities.

Kessler says the agency will release a summary of its findings in 2024.

Click here to see the full list of facilities included in the PFAS monitoring plan. The agency stressed that "inclusion on the monitoring plan facility list does not necessarily mean a facility is releasing PFAS to the air, surface, or groundwater — it only means they have been identified as a potential emitter, and monitoring is a necessary initial step."

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