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State Pollution Control Agency: 3M Failed To Manage Hazardous Waste In Cottage Grove

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced an enforcement agreement with the 3M company regarding its failure to correctly record, store, inspect, and dispose of hazardous waste at its manufacturing and waste incineration facility in Cottage Grove.

The findings are part of a two-year investigation that started in September 2018 and found one container of hydrofluoric acid, an extremely toxic chemical compound, releasing gases into the air.

According to the MPCA, an additional 901 hazardous waste containers containing hydrofluoric acid, some with bulging barrel lids, were found stored throughout the Cottage Grove facility. MPCA says 3M failed to immediately notify them of the excessive and abnormal unpermitted emission that could potentially cause air pollution that endangers human health.

hazardous waste container in ash conveyor building

In addition, the MPCA determined that 3M stored restricted wastes beyond the one-year limit and failed to prove that the storage was solely for the purpose to facilitate proper recovery, treatment, or disposal. Some hazardous waste containers were stored 724 days beyond the 365-day restriction.

release of hazardous wastewater under truck in ash conveyor building

The enforcement agreement required 3M to complete 15 corrective measures, including improved hazardous wastewater prevention methods, updated annual training for employees, and enhanced recordkeeping of hazardous waste at the facility. In addition to corrective actions, 3M paid $80,000 in civil penalties for its violations.

3M released the following statement:

3M is pleased to have reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to resolve compliance matters at our Cottage Grove facility, which were identified to MPCA in 2018 and 2019.

3M takes its commitment to environmental and regulatory compliance seriously. Through the actions outlined in the Stipulation Agreement, we will help ensure consistent compliance in this facility's use of regulated materials, provide a safe working environment for our employees, and reaffirm our role as a positive presence in the Cottage Grove community.

This is not the first time 3M has been reviewed by the MPCA. In 2018, the state sued the company for $5 billion after the company dumped chemicals in landfills around the area, contaminating the groundwater of about 174,000 residents which is said to cause higher rates of cancer and premature births.

For years, 3M legally dumped chemicals used to make Scotchguard and other products. The company says it doesn't believe the chemicals caused negative health effects, but the two sides reached a settlement for $850 million.

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