MN Department of Health Groundwater Update

By Rep. Tony Jurgens and Rep. Keith Franke, 5/23/2017

Hello from St. Paul,

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) informed us that it has issued updated health-based advisory values for two industrial chemicals present in groundwater in the East Metro area (mainly parts of Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove not served by city water). We wanted to share with you what we know at the moment, and what will be happening going forward.

Most importantly: the department tells us drinking water with PFOA or PFOS, even at levels above the updated values, does not represent an immediate health risk. The values are designed to reduce long-term health risks across the population and are based on multiple safety factors to protect the most vulnerable citizens, which makes them over-protective for most residents.

According to the health department, PFOA and PFOS are two members of a category of chemicals called perfluorochemicals (PFCs). These chemicals were used for decades in stain repellants, non-stick cookware, and other consumer and industrial products. The 3M Company disposed of PFC-containing wastes in several disposal sites in Washington County, and the chemicals subsequently moved into the groundwater across a wide area. The groundwater is used as a source of drinking water in many East Metro communities.

State of Minnesota health officials have identified about 120 private wells in the East Metro area with water that exceeds the updated values. In addition, Cottage Grove, Oakdale, and Woodbury have a number of supply wells for their public drinking water systems affected by the updated values. Local officials are in the process of determining what actions they may take in response to the updated values.

According to MDH program manager Jim Kelly, the previous guidance limited exposure to a very low level – well below the level at which most people would be expected to experience any health impacts. Recent biomonitoring data show that PFCs in East Metro residents have been dropping, and the updated values will further reduce the long-term exposure risk for people with the greatest vulnerability.

When updated values are issued, MDH and MPCA work with local systems and private well owners to determine how best to respond. This often includes additional private well sampling, providing filters for private well owners who may not have other options, and changes to community water supplies to reduce PFC levels. Simple filters that go on the kitchen tap work well to remove the chemicals from the water and reduce exposure. In some cases, using bottled water for drinking may be recommended until other remedies are in place.

The updated values are health recommendations to local officials operating public water supplies and to private well owners in the affected areas. In addition, these values are used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and other agencies to take action that ensures that polluting entities are held accountable for clean-up and remediation of contaminated sites.

PFCs can build up in the body over time. They also can be passed on to fetuses through the placenta and to nursing infants through breast milk. This is why MDH notes that pregnant women in the affected communities and those using water from affected groundwater sources to prepare infant formula may consider using bottled water or filtration to reduce PFC exposure.

On June 7, MDH and MPCA, along with local officials, will hold a public informational meeting from 6-8 p.m. at the Cottage Grove City Hall to answer any questions residents may have, and we hope you’ll join us there.

Though the department tells us this news does not mean there is an immediate health risk, we are obviously concerned and want to help our constituents deal with this issue in any way we can. Going forward, our offices stand ready to help residents who may be impacted and to answer any questions. Please contact us at any time. To reach Rep. Franke’s office, please send an email to or call 651-296-4342. To reach Rep. Jurgens’ office, email or call 651-296-3135.

MDH officials plan to speak with us tomorrow in person to give us an update. We will be sure to update you with what we learn.

State Representatives Tony Jurgens and Keith Franke

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