Commentaries

Collection: Toxic Traces
Knowledgeable and neutral research scientists are key
My response is about the statement about research scientists and the MPCA. I live in Harmony Minnesota but work in Preston Minnesota and lived in Preston for several years. So my thoughts about all of this information about 3M is colored by the tire plant controversy and also the fact that 3M is like a family company in that three generations of my family have and are working for 3M.

What better place for neutral scientists to be other than a government body? I am not so naive as to believe appointments would not be politically motivated, but at least they may have to go thru some kind of vetting process and legislative approval. We need knowledgeable and independent people in positions that are so vital to the public health.

Ruth Grant
Harmony, MN


We must continue to learn more about managing the chemicals, disposal
I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop since 3M's announcement of discontinuing production of Scotchgard in 2000. Nothing was really said until this story. In the 1970's I worked in the "structural pest control" industry here in Minnesota. When I started the EPA was just pulling Chlordane from the approved usage list. The short story is Chlordane was one of the few remaining compounds from the DDT years. The proper way to dispose of this product was to continue to use the product according to the manufacturer's label until product was gone.

What I find disturbing to me is the way 3M (according to MPCA timeline) in 200-2002 Chemlite dumped 10,000 pounds of PFCs into the Mississippi. I am sure even 3M would admit that would hardly be an approved labeling for destroying these compounds.

I have an associate that owns land in southern Minnesota that has caves where one can reach the 2nd aquifer. He has told me how he has taken water from this aquifer and had it tested for purity. Pollution from industry and agriculture has penetrated to this level of our drinking water and this is far and away from the Twin Cities.

Until the burning ban in the Twin Cities residences, public dumps and industry would burn their waste or trash items. In the interest of keeping our environment clean namely our air, regulators instituted the burning ban as well as regulations on filtering smoke from industrial smoke stacks. The toxic wastes that we use to burn into the air is now contained and thrown into our landfills, which are now leaching these toxic substances into our aquifers.

Our knowledge of our environment is greater today than it was just a few short years ago; imagine how much more we will know about it tomorrow.

Jerry Geist
Savage, MN


Protect the people and the environment
I have been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities syndrome. The 3M product is only one of many that have enjoyed the protection of the "sound science" philosophy. Very little funding is available for independent research. The EPA seemingly accepts the chemical industries evaluation of itself. (Much like the current EPA CHEERS program.) Those charged with the "protection" of the environment have failed in their duties by remaining agnostic.

Tom Knight
St. Joseph, MI


Is 3M really the most evil Minnesota polluter?
Aside from the class action lawsuits which may or may not be litigated, it appears that 3M is operating fairly openly and within the bounds of the laws and science at the time the pollution occured. The fact that they voluntarily stopped using PFCs suggests that they are probably better citizens than many.

On the other hand, what about some of our more subtle (and not so subtle) polluters like Koch Oil, IBP, numerous municipal waste treatment facilities, just to mention a few. I'm far more concerned about the long term effects of known chemical and biological pollutants than the effects of PFCs that may, or may not be a hazard.

Marsh Jones
New Brighton, MN


Another model of toxicology
There is no mention at all about the alternative model of toxicology that focuses on endocrine disruption. This model is put forth by the book "Our Stolen Future". It says that even in very small amounts it can disrupt the bodies normal functioning by mimicking the actions of hormones. This result can affect the development of children resulting in effects that may be hard to trace to the chemicals themselves.

Steve Tuckner
Roseville, MN


Report on 3M's use of PFOA and PFOS
As an engineer who was very close to the fluorochemical issue at 3M, I commend your report for being one of the most factual and unbiased ones I have heard. I am no longer with 3M, partly because the stress I had dealing with the fluorochemical issue and other 3M environmental issues led to personal problems that I could not resolve to 3M's satisfiaction. Nonetheless, the continuing issues around FS's continue to disturb me.

While your report focused on the popular Scotchgard fabric treatment, you didn't thoroughly go into the other uses of the FC chemistry which pobably caused the widespread environmental contamination. PFOA nad PFOS are also components found in 3M's Lightwater Aqueous Film Forming Foam, or AFFF (aka "A triple F"). This chemical was used widely (and still is around) in the foams used in putting out petroleum fires. Notably, thousands of gallons were used to put out the Kuwaiti oil fires in the early 90's. Not only was AFFF the US Navy's chemical of choice for petroleum fires, the largest use of it was in training exercises. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is being found around the world. The Decatur, ALabama plant had a large AFFF testing area that I believe is the subject of a remediation study.

You didn't mention that for many years, the Decatur plant spread sludge from its wastewater treatment plant on 3M owned adjacent farmland as a fertilizer. Fluorochemical production cell "bottoms" which contained PFOA and PFOS were a component of this sludge.

Closer to home, you reported correctly that water from the Woodbury landfill site is being used at the 3M Cottage Grove plant. Most of this water does not receive treatment for FC removal and is being discharged to the Mississippi River. Water pumped from beneath the plant iteslf is also contaminated with FC's. Although much of this water is treated through activated carbon filtration columns, a significant portion is not. This water either is used for cooling water and is intentionally not treated, or is used at the 3M incinerator at the site. Only a part of the water used at the incinerator is treated because of design flaws in the carbon treatment system. To my knowledge, this problem has not yet been resolved.

The source of the contamination at the Cottage Grove site continues to be under investigation. The company has been studying ways to treat all water under the plant as a "contingency" plan. This may result in constuction of another carbon filtration system at the site or relocation of the wells to supply water to the site although this latter option still doen't fully address the contamination itself.

Part of the diffuculty in this whole issue is the cost of analyzing water for PFOA and PFOA. It costs $1400 per sample to run the test. Therefore, it is costly to track the source or direction of contamination. While 3M has been doing a fairly responsible job in this, the cost issue does come up when such studies are proposed.

As for the MPCA involvement with the issue, my understanding is that the MPCA was looking at the environmental aspects of the chemistry and the MN Department of Health was supposed to look at the human health effects. This is the proper approach. While the direct human health effects still have yet to be determined, it is prudent to minimize use and human exposure to these substances.

Tom Baltutis
Minneapolis, MN


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