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Bemidji Settles With 3M for Forever Chemicals

The city of Bemidji reached a settlement with 3M to help pay for treating contamination in the city’s water supply. The American Multinationals conglomerate company 3M will pay $12.5 million toward building and operating a new treatment facility to remove chemicals known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.

In 2016 the city discovered elevated levels of PFAS in its wells. The source of the contamination was firefighting foam used during training at the regional airport, which is located near the wells. The company 3M manufactured PFAS used in aqueous film-forming foam used for suppressing fires for decades.PFAS is a man-made compound that is also known as “forever chemicals” because of their nature not to break down in the environment. Some PFAS have been linked to negative health effects including low birth weight, kidney and thyroid problems and some cancers.

Nate Mathews, the City manager said that the agreement is a long time coming. He also added that there was a lot of anxiety in the community when the chemicals were discovered. Last year the city started the first phase of  $16 million projects and it will be online within the next couple of weeks. This project will use granular activated carbon to capture and remove PFAS from the water supply.

The second phase will allow the city to treat more water. The city also received $10.1 million state bonding money for the project. In 2018, 3M agreed to pay the state of Minnesota $850 million over PFAS contamination in the east Twin Cities metro area. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said it will start testing for PFAS chemicals outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

Jamie Wallerstedt, remediation section manager with the MPCA said that the researchers plan to sample water and soil at 10 sites in Stearns, Dakota, St. Louis and Olmsted counties, where industries might have used the chemicals.

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