Former Minnesota pollution control agency employee files whistleblower lawsuit

Mark Toso spent nearly 30 years working as a hydrogeologist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency where he also managed the agency’s Petroleum Remediation Program which cleans up sites across the state that were polluted by leaking underground storage tanks many of which contain leaded gasoline.

Last November, Toso filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the MPCA claiming he was retaliated against by his managers and chose to resign from his job after he questioned their handling of the underground polluted petroleum sites.

Since the 1980s there have been thousands of petroleum leaks pinpointed across the state, with many of them coming from underground gasoline storage tanks and Toso said the additives in leaded gasoline do not break down and, in his opinion, the best way to clean up a leaded gasoline site was by removing the chemicals.

Toso, in his lawsuit, said there are 5,000 polluted sites across Minnesota that he claims the MPCA did not clean up properly, but rather chose to drill new wells rather than remove the chemicals and he told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he spent five years warning his superiors that this was not an adequate process for eliminating the threat to future public drinking water.

“There is no thought about what’s going to happen in the future,” Toso said. “What’s going to happen if someone drills in a polluted plume?  What happens if someone puts in an irrigation system next door and it pumps at such a high rate that it pulls the contamination this way?  What’s going to happen because these plumes are going to be around for 50 or maybe even 100 years.”

Toso told KSTP he filed the lawsuit because the public has a right to know, in greater detail, what the MPCA is doing with the leaded gasoline pollution sites.

“The MPCA basically told the public, the legislature and the EPA that these sites were cleaned up and that all risks to public health and drinking water were addressed and that was not true,” said Toso.

MPCA has denied Toso’s allegations of retaliation and also said, through an agency spokesperson, that the process the agency has used to handle the leeching leaded gasoline has kept the public drinking water supply safe.

MPCA said it does not comment on ongoing litigation, but did issue the following statement: “The MPCA is committed to ensuring that drinking water is safe for all Minnesotans, and the agency works swiftly and thoroughly to address environmental impacts of contamination from petroleum leaks. Our staff utilizes the best science and management practices available and the MPCA continuously seeks out and adopts new approaches or policies that emerge with the advancement of science and technology.”