East metro residents learn details for $850 million 3M settlement

East metro residents are learning more about 3M’s $850 million settlement after the company improperly disposed chemicals several years ago.

Tuesday marked the first of three meetings that will address how the State of Minnesota will spend the money used to settle the PFC contamination lawsuit. Residents attended the meeting at Park High School, seeking both peace of mind and answers about just how harmful their water might be.

“I have kidney cancer, I also have thyroid condition, so I’m concerned for my kids and grandkids as well,” said Vicki Martin, a Woodbury resident, who has lived in the area for 30 years.

For Martin and others, like Tom Bickner of Afton, the details are murky. Neither are clear on whether or not their water is safe.

“We should continue to be free from any pollutants, but we don’t know, that’s why we’re here tracking it,” said Bickner.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency led the meeting along with representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health. In addition to presenting details about the settlement, officials are also taking ideas from residents about how the funds should be allocated.

“That’s what we’re looking for is that they listen to the citizens of the east metro,” said Lew Vogel, a Cottage Grove resident.

While $20 million is “immediately available,” approximately $130 million will go toward legal and “other” expenses.

“It’s going to go a long way to find alternative drinking water sources,” said Assistant MPCA Commissioner Kirk Koudelka.

The remaining $700 million will be spent first on alternative sources for drinking water, namely for city and private well owners. Those funds will be spread to cover a region containing about 157,000 residents and businesses.

“What is my property going to be worth if the water isn’t drinkable?” said Bickner. “We have wells, and the whole area out toward Afton is supported by wells, so a lot of people will probably take a pretty big hit on their property.”

The second priority is enhancing and restoring natural resource projects in order to try to undo the harm caused by 3M’s PFC disposal. The lasting impact is still yet to be seen.

“I’m just more concerned for my grandkids,” said Martin.

The MPCA will look at ongoing costs and consider a structure for what those might look like in the future.