Oakdale, 3M negotiate removal of pollutants from city water

Nearly six months after discovering that Oakdale’s municipal water supply contained trace amounts of chemicals produced by 3M to make products resistant to water, grease and stains, city officials and 3M representatives have entered into preliminary discussions about installing a filtration system on one of Oakdale’s wells.

"We have had a very good relationship with (3M)," City Administrator Craig Waldron said. "They understand the concerns we have for our citizens, and they have been working with us in good faith."

Waldron said 3M representatives have indicated an interest in building a granular-activated carbon filtering system near city well No. 5 in Richard Walton Park. Of the six city wells tested by 3M in December 2004, well No. 5 showed the highest concentrations of pefluorooctanoic acid and perfluoroctane, said City Engineer Brian Bachmeier.

The state Department of Health determined the amount of chemicals detected throughout the city’s water supply were below levels considered unsafe.

For decades, the Maplewood-based company produced the synthetic chemicals at its Cottage Grove facility for use in its Scotchgard products. Due to growing health concerns surrounding the chemicals, 3M changed the formula for Scotchgard.

Some of the waste from the Chemolite plant in Cottage Grove was disposed of at the Washington County Landfill and at a former disposal site near Granada Avenue and Highway 5 in Oakdale, the Department of Health said.

Bachmeier said granular-activated carbon filter systems are used by many cities to improve the taste and smell of the water.

"It’s a large vessel where the water is stored temporarily to provide a minimum amount of contact time where the carbon absorbs the compounds out of the water," he said. "It’s becoming known as the best available technology for improving water quality."

The Department of Health will be installing similar systems on 12 private, residential wells in Lake Elmo that have also tested positive for perfluorchemicals, said Jim Kelly, the department’s health risk assessor.

The filtering system in Oakdale would be installed in a yet-to-be constructed building at Walton Park. Bachmeier estimated the system would cost over $1 million.

City officials will be looking to 3M to cover the costs associated with installing the filtration system.

"It would be wonderful if we could start the process during this construction cycle, but there’s a lot of work to be done before it could be installed," Waldron said. "These are some fairly large tanks that contain the carbon. There are some aesthetic considerations that we also want to take into account at Walton Park."

Bill Nelson, a 3M representative, declined to elaborate on the discussions that are taking place with Oakdale officials, only to say the talks are ongoing.

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