Drinking water is less toxic than it used to be for some Twin Cities residents


Good news for those living in the eastern Twin Cities: Your drinking water is less toxic than it used to be.

It's been almost 12 years since it was discovered that drinking water sources in the east Metro had high concentrations of perfluorochemicals (PFCs), which were in turn found in the blood streams of long-time local residents.

According to the Minnesota Department for Health (MDH), PFCs are man-made and used in products to resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water – and while there's no consensus on illnesses they can cause, they are potentially toxic to the liver and thyroid gland, and can affect development.

Residents in Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove were found to have PFCs in their system after the chemicals leaked into the water supply from old dumping grounds, and in 2006 the MDH implemented a program to reduce PFCs in the Washington County water supply.

And this program – which saw filtration systems installed in public and private wells – is proving a success, with MDH announcing Tuesday that PFC levels in the blood of 149 east Metro residents had fallen by between 35 and 60 percent since they were tested in 2008.

Although their PFC levels are still higher than the U.S. average, there is a definite downward trend as the chemicals exit their system. Meanwhile those who moved to the area after the new measures were put in place have no heightened levels of PFCs.

"While still above average U.S. levels, they are getting closer," MDH investigator Jessica Nelson said. "It’s certainly good news that levels in long-term residents continue to drop as we’d expect them to, and that newer residents don’t appear to have unusual exposures to PFCs."

The Pioneer Press previously reported that the cleanup of a PFC-heavy landfill site in Lake Elmo was a major undertaking, costing $21 million to remove dirt that was contaminated by chemicals from 2.5 million cubic yards of garbage.

Corporate giant 3M was thought to be responsible for much of the PFCs found at the site, and pitched in $8 million toward the cleanup, even though a judge ruled that the among of contamination found at the site was not thought to have been harmful to human health.

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