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3M has agreed pay one of the largest penalties in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's history after a two-year state investigation found widespread hazardous waste violations at the company's facility in Cottage Grove.

On Thursday, state regulators announced 3M had agreed to pay an approximately $2.84 million civil penalty for the violations, which date back to 1996.

According to findings of the MPCA's two-year investigation, the company's failures included sending misidentified hazardous waste to the company's incinerator, storing 1,300 containers of hazardous waste in unapproved areas, and failing to verify the contents of the company's waste stream.

Until this year, the Cottage Grove facility had stored and incinerated all hazardous waste from the company's operations in North America.

Findings of the investigation include:

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As part of the state's enforcement action, 3M completed 24 corrective actions to bring the Cottage Grove facility into compliance with its permit, according to the MPCA.

A separate hazardous waste investigation at the same facility last year landed 3M with an $80,000 penalty when the MPCA found hydrofluoric acid, an extremely toxic chemical compound, releasing gases into the air.

In a statement Thursday, 3M said the company takes its commitment to environmental and regulatory compliance seriously and is pleased to have reached an agreement with the MPCA to resolve compliance matters at the Cottage Grove facility.

"3M has already taken action to address these matters at MPCA’s direction," the statement said. "We will continue to be a positive presence in the Cottage Grove community.”

In 2018, the Fortune 500 company agreed a $850 million settlement with the State of Minnesota to fund efforts to address its decades-long disposal of PFAS in areas of the east Twin Cities metro, which found their way into water supplies.

On Thursday, Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove), said the state should explore toughening penalties on corporations that put Minnesotans' health at risk. 

"We expect our corporations to follow the law when it comes to protecting Minnesotans from hazardous waste and its adverse impact on their health and safety," Bigham stated. "Clearly, 3M has not taken the rules, or its responsibility to uphold them, seriously for many years."

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