Dear East St. Paul: 3M's Poisoned Your Water

Rarely do you ever come across a story in the national news that so heavily impacts Minnesotans as the story in Bloomberg News about the polluting and poisoning 3M has perpetrated against its local neighbors in East St. Paul. My only guess is that 3M used its local power and influence to quash a story that threatens so many people living in St. Paul, Woodbury, Lake Elmo, Newport, Cottage Grove, and Oakdale. If you live in these communities, you must read this story and understand the poison lurking in your drinking water.

Apparently, for about 20 years (1956 to 1974) 3M used the local areas as a dumping ground for a toxic waste by-product called per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS, pronounced “PEE-fas”). This toxic waste comes from the production of Scotchgard and other products such as Teflon, waterproofed outdoor gear, greaseproof food papers, and firefighting foams. The chemical property that makes these products effective—one of the strongest molecular bonds ever discovered—means they are almost impossible to get rid of and don’t break down in the environment.  They are called “forever” chemicals and have long been detected in people’s bodies from the water we drink and food we eat.  These toxic chemicals have been shown how they accumulate and have been linked to reduced immune response and cancer.

So, attorney general Laurie Swanson aggressively pursued a case against 3M – but recently settled for $850 Million against a claim of $5 Billion. From the article, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why 3M settled before going to trial. According to the Bloomberg article, the evidence was damming against 3M.

The chemicals have flowed into four underlying drinking aquifers and created a 100 square mile underground plume. They have also polluted the Mississippi, area lakes, and fish.

Among affected towns in Washington County, Oakdale has the highest levels of  PFOA and PFOS chemicals, ranging from 6 parts per trillion to 489 ppt, affecting some 150,000 residents. Death records show a child who died in Oakdale from 2003 to 2015 was 171 percent more likely to have had cancer compared to outside of the contaminated area.

What I can say is that as a Minnesota native, living in the Minneapolis area almost my entire life, and someone who is relatively well informed – I had no idea litigation of this magnitude was going on against 3M and the water in these communities is so poisonous. And apparently, I am not alone as when I circulated this story in my, no else had heard of this either.

Perhaps some of the $850M in settlement should be used to inform the general population in East St. Paul of the hazard that lurks below them.  The word needs to get out. Do not drink your water!