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MPCA Investigation Finds 3M Mismanaged Hazardous Waste At Cottage Grove Facility

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) -- Pollution regulators in Minnesota say one of the state's largest companies mismanaged hazardous waste in multiple instances over a span of more than two decades.

Kirk Koudelka with the Minneasota Pollution Control Agency says 3M will have to pay $2.8 million after a 2-year investigation into hazardous waste violations at their Cottage Grove plant.

"This penalty is one of the largest in the state agency's history," said Koudelka.

The agency found 28 violations dating back to 1996, including storing 1,300 containers of hazardous waste in unapproved areas.

"Specifically from a period of time between 2014 -2022, 3M failed to conduct verifications of more than 1,800 waste streams at it's facilities for various hazardous components such a mercery, lead, nickel, cadmium, arsenic and other hazardous material," said Koudelka.

Despite several hazardous waste violations for the last 25 years at the 3M Cottage Grove plant, the MPCA says they did not find any employees impacted, and assure Southeast metro residents that the area is safe now.

"The good news is the incinerator is closed, the material is no longer there, they will not be accepting this material again, so these violations cannot occur again," said Koudelka.

MPCA says that in addition to the nearly $3 million fine, 3M will have to take action to correct 24 different things.

In statement, 3M said it "takes its commitment to environmental and regulatory compliance seriously."

"These matters were primarily related to waste evaluation and labeling, handling, and storage. Emissions monitoring and testing data indicates that all materials were safely treated at 3M's incinerator," the company said. "3M has already taken action to address these matters at MPCA's direction. We will continue to be a positive presence in the Cottage Grove community."

3M Cottage Grove plant
3M's Cottage Grove facility (credit: CBS)

The MPCA also shared that there is another pending investigation happening at that same 3M plant, but in another part of the campus. Koudelka said the MPCA is putting in efforts to protect human health and the environment, even though they're unable to reveal the full details of the investigation publicly yet.

The incinerator at the Cottage Grove facility ceased operation in December.


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