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PFAS, otherwise known as 'forever chemicals' found at nearly all of Minnesota's closed landfills

These "forever chemicals" were found at 98 of the 101 closed landfills the MPCA tested.
Landfill plastic bags

The groundwater at 60 closed landfills in Minnesota is contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also called "forever chemicals," at levels that exceed the Minnesota Department of Health's values for PFAS. 

That's according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)'s new findings that were released on Thurdsay.

“The MPCA has found PFAS contamination in almost every closed landfill it oversees,” said MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop. “Once again, our assessments tell us that PFAS is everywhere in our environment. That’s why the agency needs the ability to use dedicated funds more flexibly to rapidly respond to these urgent contamination incidents.”

In total, 98 of the 101 closed landfills MPCA tested have PFAS contamination in the groundwater. Fifty-nine of the landfills in 41 counties have groundwater with PFAS contamination that exceeds state guidance values, and 15 landfills have PFAS contamination that exceeds health guidance values by at least 10 times. 

Here's a map of where those landfills are: 

PFAS landfills

The Gofer landfill north of Fairmont in Martin County has PFAS in the groundwater that exceeds state health guidelines by 1,343 times. PFAS contamination has been found in nearly all of the monitoring wells at the landfill, as well as an adjacent creek and one off-site temporary monitoring well. 

The good news is all drinking water wells within 1 mile of the landfill have been tested and PFAS was not detected in any of them. 

Here's a look at the other landfills with the highest PFAS contamination levels:

PFAS counties

Following this report, which comes after the MPCA last month launched a statewide blueprint to address PFAS, is asking the Minnesota Legislature for the ability to use funds in the Closed Landfill Investment Fund during the 2021 Minnesota legislative session so it can rapidly address unexpected environmental releases or incidents. 

State law requires the MPCA to wait until the legislature appropriates funding before responding to a contamination incident. But legislative delays and gridlock could put communities at risk, the MPCA says. 

In addition to seeking flexibility with funds, the MPCA says it will expand its water monitoring to ensure drinking water is monitored. The agency will also continue to sample groundwater at the landfill sites to determine the impact of PFAS contamination and take remedial actions, such as installing an engineered system to pup groundwater that will control the movement and reduce contamination.

In 2018, Twin Cities-based Fortune 500 company 3M 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.

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