Cottage Grove builds plant to treat PFAS-contaminated water — on 3M’s dime

Cottage Grove builds plant to treat PFAS-contaminated water — on 3M’s dime

Cottage Grove builds plant to treat PFAS-contaminated water — on 3M’s dime

While the city of Cottage Grove is in the midst of completing its most expensive project ever that it says will permanently address the “forever chemicals” that are in its water, it has no plans to spend a dollar on it.  

Those forever chemicals are PFAS — per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances — and were made and disposed of by 3M, eventually making it into the water in more than a dozen east metro communities.

Now, construction is underway to build a brand new, state-of-the-art, $39 million water treatment plant that isn’t expected to cost the city anything due to the state’s settlement with 3M, totaling $850 million.

“The City of Cottage Grove has been at the epicenter of the PFAS contamination in Minnesota,” Cottage Grove mayor Myron Bailey said during last month’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Once completed, the Low Zone Water Treatment Plant will be located at the intersection of Ideal Avenue South and 110th Street South, on the very south side of the city.

Officials say it will treat the water for residents south of Highway 61. It’s one of two water treatment plants that will be built, eventually replacing the three temporary treatment plants that were put in place once PFAS was detected in their water in 2006.

“It’s very exciting for the city,” said Ryan Burfeind, Cottage Grove’s Public Works director.

He adds it’s been a “long time coming,” and that the new facility will be state of the art and able to adjust for the growing city and as experts learn more about PFAS.

“This is really good, you know, well-proven technology,” Burfeind said. “This is a granular activated carbon treatment plant, and that’s what’s going to treat all of our wells right from now and into the future.

The city worked closely with several state agencies including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“Now, the city will really be able to focus on the long-term needs, [that being providing] safe and sustainable drinking water to the residents.” Liz Kaufenberg, supervisor of the MPCA’s East Metro Unit, said about the city erecting its first permanent treatment center.

Kaufenberg says the partnerships are key in work like this to make sure this facility — and more to come in Cottage Grove and other communities — are prepared to adjust as they learn more about PFAS.

“We built it so that it’s resilient, resilient in terms of the science that’s changing around PFAS and making sure that we can accommodate that,” Kaufenberg said.

In a statement about the project, the director for MDH’s Environmental Health Division shared the following:

“The close partnerships between public water systems, MDH, MPCA, and other state and federal agencies have made Minnesota a national leader on addressing PFAS in drinking water. We’ve worked with public water systems to find solutions, such as this important new treatment plant in Cottage Grove. As PFAS science and standards continue to evolve at the federal and state level and as we learn more, we will continue to work with systems to be sure that Minnesota’s drinking water stays safe.”

MDH Environmental Health Division Director Tom Hogan

Cottage Grove expects the new treatment center to be operational in 2025.