Woodbury pauses some future development due to PFAS treatment challenges

Woodbury pauses some future development due to PFAS treatment challenges

Woodbury pauses some future development due to PFAS treatment challenges

The City of Woodbury is limiting development as it works to treat PFAS detected in the water.

This summer, the city restricted how often homeowners could water their lawns in an attempt to reduce the impact of PFAS. City leaders hope slowing development will additionally help to ensure safe drinking water until they get closer to having a permanent water treatment plant in place.

Woodbury has long-term development goals in place. According to city officials, the average growth rate in new growth areas between 2011 to 2022 was 328 units per year, just shy of the 400 housing units per year projected to be built between 2012 to 2029. The city has decided to push back development on a few parcels of land scheduled for upcoming development phases.

“The root cause really has to do with PFAS that’s in our water,” said Mayor Anne Burt. “We think it might be time to slow growth down a little bit as work at building a permanent treatment plant to treat that water for PFAS.”

The so-called forever chemicals were made by and disposed of by 3M in the east metro. Within the last several years, the Minnesota Department of Health has put advisories on nine of Woodbury’s 20 wells. City officials told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS three of the wells remain offline, but two will be brought back with interim treatment in 2024, while the remaining well will be abandoned. Another six wells are being treated through a temporary plant.

The City anticipates future advisories may be placed on wells.

Sandeep Burman, Environmental Health Manager at the Minnesota Department of Health, explained by saying “Health risk advisories can be issued as a result of changes in sampling results as well as updates to PFAS guidance or standards for drinking water. The Drinking Water Protection program at the Minnesota Department of Health monitors this dynamic situation very closely and responds quickly and as needed to protect public health, including by issuing advisories.”

A permanent treatment plant is expected to be online in Woodbury by about 2028, according to Burt.

“This is the largest public works project we’ve had in the city and it just takes a lot of time and effort and cost to make that happen,” said Burt. “So in the meantime, we need to make sure that we’re supplying good quality water to the community and at the same time with all of this growth, reduce it a little bit.”

The City Council in July approved a plan to delay development in a few specific areas in the southern part of the city, including at Dale Road and Collage Grove Drive.

According to Burt, landowners can still sell to developers, but the city won’t start accepting building applications for the areas outlined until about 2026.

Development will be allowed in other parts of the city.

“There are still parts of the city that are available for development and have been for a number of years and if a project comes forward in an area we may agree to do so,” said Burt. “We’ve already agreed to several projects that are underway so we’re not going to see growth stop by any means, we’re just not going to see new things come in certain areas of the city.”

There are about four to five years of development activity still expected in the city, according to City Planner Eric Searles. He says about 1,500 units already have final or preliminary approval.

“The public should not expect to not see any construction activity anywhere in the city because of this,” said Council Member Steve Morris at the July Meeting.