'Forever chemicals' found in foam from 2 Twin Cities creeks

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota pollution regulators have found foam containing potentially harmful “forever chemicals” from two creeks in the eastern Twin Cities.

Elevated levels of the industrial compound known as PFAS turned up in naturally-occurring foam in Raleigh Creek in Oakdale and in Battle Creek in eastern St. Paul. Officials say there’s no immediate health threat to the public. But they’re warning people to avoid the contaminated foam and to take precautions if they or their pets come in contact with it.

Maplewood-based 3M made the chemicals — used in Scotchgard, fire retardants and nonstick cookware — starting in the 1950s and stopping in 2002.

The contaminated foam carries much higher concentrations of the chemical than the creek water itself, which remains safe for recreation, but is a symptom of PFAS in the water, said Minnesota Pollution Control Agency assistant commissioner Kirk Koudelka.

“It’s significant, and it’s the first time we have confirmed the presence of PFAS in foam,” Koudelka said.

The agency mailed letters to residents this week and is conducting public meetings in nearby communities, the Star Tribune reported.

Raleigh Creek flows through a private disposal site 3M used for years in Oakdale to legally dump PFAS-contaminated waste. In 2018, the state reached a $850 million court settlement with 3M over allegations the manufacturer damaged natural resources and contaminated groundwater by disposing of the chemicals over decades.

3M has been remediating the Oakdale disposal site for years. But the contaminated foam indicates that the compounds are bubbling up into nearby surface waters.

“More needs to be done at this site,” Koudelka said.

State regulators have given 3M 45 days to come up with a new action plan for containing contamination.

In a statement Tuesday, 3M spokeswoman Fanna Hailie-Selassie the company “is committed to continuing our working relationship with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to monitor former disposal sites. We will review the MPCA’s full report and take appropriate steps consistent with our regulatory obligations and our commitment to environmental stewardship.”