Cost to remove PFAS from Minnesota waste stream ‘unaffordable,’ MPCA study says
Removing man-made “forever chemicals” from Minnesota’s waste stream would cost billions of dollars, according to a study from the state’s environmental protection department.
The findings of the study from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) shed more light on the importance of stopping per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from entering the wastewater stream in the first place.
“The exorbitant costs associated with removing PFAS from community wastewater systems underscores the need to address PFAS pollution long before it gets into the waste stream,” MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler said. “At no fault of their own, wastewater treatment facilities receive PFAS from a variety of sources, and they cannot carry the burden of cleaning up the pollution. We must all focus on preventing PFAS from entering the environment in the first place.”
PFAS, which are found in many everyday items like food packaging, consumer products, and stain-resistant coatings on carpets or furniture, can be bought for between $50 and $1,000 per pound, the MPCA estimates. However, the agency says the chemicals cost between $2.7 million and $18 million per pound to remove from wastewater.
Additionally, the department says new “short-chain” types of PFAS are tougher and up to 70% more costly to remove and destroy compared to “long-chain” PFAS.
Health officials say exposure to PFAS can lead to an increased risk for things like cancer, immune suppression and liver function.
The MPCA says the state’s wastewater treatment facilities understand the need to address PFAS pollution and are monitoring for them, but none are equipped to remove and destroy PFAS.
The environment bill passed last month by Minnesota lawmakers includes a nearly total ban on nonessential PFAS in the coming years, and the MPCA says it’s working to implement that new law. The agency’s PFAS Blueprint already listed prevention as the best way to protect health and the environment, but the MPCA says the cost estimates should add more urgency to prevention efforts.
Read the agency’s full report here.