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Minnesota PFC Contaminants

Date Created:3/1/2007


Introduction to the PFC Issue

There has been a lot of buzz around the Twin Cities metro area regarding a contaminant called PFCs. Until recently, PFCs were not easily detectable. New testing technology has made it possible to detect the PFCs, which are much more prevalent than industry experts predicted. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press have covered stories on the issue. Local papers, such as the South Washington County Bulletin have followed the issue even more closely because of the direct effects on residents in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, South St. Paul, Newport, Woodbury, Hastings, and neighboring suburbs.

After being contacted local media and many residents about this issue, we decided that we should host this page as a resource to those affeceted the PFC issue in Minnesota. We will be adding much more information to this page in the near future. For now, we will include an overview of the contaminant, a suggested filtration strategy, and brief updates on the contamination issue.

PFCs: The Contaminant

PFCs (perfluorochemicals) are a family of proprietary 3M chemicals. 3M used these chemicals in manufacturing their products for decades. PFCs include perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS), perfluorooctanic acide (PFOA), and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA). These chemicals were produced in the 3M Chemolite facility in Cottage Grove. 3M's production waste was disposed of in Minnesota at the Chemolite facility, a 3M superfund site in Oakdale, and the Washington County Landfill. Other sites may have been used for disposal, but they are not yet known.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has sampled well water in Lake Elmo, Oakdale, and other suburbs. In some areas, close to half of the wells contained PFCs above and beyond well advisory guidelines. Residents have been forced to drink bottled water until they have been able to install Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) water filtration systems.

The MPCA has also found PFC contamination in and along the Mississippi River, which is affecting bluegill sunfish and smallmouth bass.

Although there is no proven immediate health risk in drinking water with low levels of PFCs, experts believe that some incidences of cancer and other diseases are the result of long term exposure to PFCs. Already, anecdotal evidence has surfaced that suggests water contamination may have caused high rates of disease in some areas.

3M maintains their position that the chemicals do not cause health problems.
While the MPCA has publicly downplayed the seriousness of the contamination, they are putting more and more resources into researching the contamination and its effects.

Suggested Filtration Technology

Since there is not a lot of history available for the treatment of PFCs, there is not a final word from regulatory organizations on the best filtration approach. However, there has been testing done in Washington County (Oakdale, in particular), which has shown that Granular Activated Carbon filtration successfully removes PFCs from water.

Basic Solution
Install a GAC filtration system as a point of entry filter. This filter reduces PFCs as well as many other contaminants that produce taste and odor. This filter is generally installed where all water comes into your home. The most popular GAC cartridge for home use is the GAC-BB water filter. The housing for this cartridge is the HD-950 housing. Any local plumber can install the housing. We can suggest plumbers.

Robust Solution
A more robust solution to purifying your water from PFCs and other contaminants includes two steps. First, install a GAC filtration system as described above. Second, install a drinking water system that acts as a second stage of PFC filtration as well as a higher quality water filtration for other contaminants. The best water filtration technology for homes is Reverse Osmosis (RO), which goes so far as to reduce dissolved solids. You can learn more about RO systems here. For more details, click the "more info" links below any of the systems or filters.

Updates on the Local PFC Contamination Issue

In March of 2007, we will be at the annual Water Quality Association meeting in Orlando to discuss this new contamination issue with other water purification professionals.

3/1/07
State health departments have lowered the amounts of PFOA and PFO that they consider to be safe levels. In other words, they have determined that these contaminants may be more harmful than originally believed. There is still no hard evidence to show that short term exposure to these contaminants is harmful to health, but there is much research left to do.
http://wcco.com/local/local_story_060215137.html

3/5/07
Local residents are beginning to lose patience with 3M.
http://wcco.com/local/local_story_062175203.html

3/5/07
3M Claims that the water is safe.
http://wcco.com/topstories/local_story_065223523.html

News and Related Links
http://www.pca.state.mn.us/publications/gp5-18.pdf
http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/hazardous/sites/washington/3Mcottagegrove.html
http://www.mepartnership.org/mep_whatsnew.asp?new_id=2164
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/dier0085/3101news/2007/01/3m_water_contamination_grows.html
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/stol0195/3101news/2007/01/water_contamination_in_the_met.html
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=652
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/your_voice/commentaries/2005/02/toxictracescollection.shtml
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/995756.html
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17109393/
http://www.ci.oakdale.mn.us/pdfs/Pressrelease-watertreatment.pdf
http://www.peer.org/docs/mn/06_27_2_pfc_report.pdf
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=650


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