MPCA: 3M improperly stored hazardous waste at Cottage Grove facility

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced an enforcement agreement with 3M Wednesday following a two-year investigation that found hazardous waste was improperly stored and disposed of at the Cottage Grove facility.

The MPCA found 3M did not store hazardous waste containers in the permitted areas. A container of hydrofluoric acid, a toxic chemical compound, was found releasing gases into the air. There were also 901 containers, some with bulging lids, holding the acid stored throughout the facility. The emissions could cause harmful air pollution.

Some of the hazardous waste containers were stored nearly two years beyond the one-year limit.

"When companies do not fully comply with regulatory requirements, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment," the MPCA said in a news release. 

In an enforcement agreement announced Wednesday, 3M implemented 15 corrective measures, which included improved hazardous waste wastewater prevention methods, updated employee training, better recordkeeping of hazardous waste and $80,000 in civil penalties for violations.

A spokesperson with 3M released the following statement in response to the enforcement agreement and findings:

"3M is pleased to have reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to resolve compliance matters at our Cottage Grove facility, which were identified to MPCA in 2018 and 2019.

"3M takes its commitment to environmental and regulatory compliance seriously. Through the actions outlined in the Stipulation Agreement, we will help ensure consistent compliance in this facility’s use of regulated materials, provide a safe working environment for our employees, and reaffirm our role as a positive presence in the Cottage Grove community."