Woodbury residents can only water lawns twice per week

Woodbury enacts watering restrictions

Woodbury enacts watering restrictions

New watering restrictions are in effect this summer in Woodbury.

People can now only water the grass outside their homes on one weekday and one weekend day, with watering days determined by zone.

Commercial properties are limited to Fridays.

The mayor of Woodbury said it is due, in part, to the fallout from water contamination by 3M.

“We anticipate by the end of the year that the EPA is going to lower the limit for which they say PFAs are safe in the water,” explained Woodbury Mayor Anne Burt. “When that happens, we could lose up to eight additional wells that we’ll need to take offline.”

The city has about 20 wells, with six already being treated for PFAs.

PFAs are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as ‘forever chemicals.’

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reported extensively on contamination by PFAs in the drinking water, affecting 14 communities in the east metro, including Woodbury.

RELATED: Minnesota health, pollution control leaders discuss progress in managing ‘forever chemicals’

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the groundwater contamination happened from the 1950s through the 1970s, when 3M disposed of synthetic chemicals used to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water, such as nonstick cookware.

The EPA is now considering regulating PFAs under federal law, proposing a requirement that water utilities detect and reduce PFAS contamination to 4 parts per trillion, the lowest measurable level.

RELATED: EPA mulls federal drinking water standards to rein in ‘forever chemicals’

The new federal guidelines have not been finalized yet.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked the Minnesota Department of Health if the state plans to tighten regulations on PFAs before then. A spokesperson provided this response:

“The Minnesota Department of Health scientists have been reevaluating the current health-based guidance values for PFOA and PFOS since last year. New research shows that humans are more sensitive to PFAS than was previously thought, and this new information is being used to develop the new water guidance. MDH expects these values to be released late in 2023.”

MDH also provided more information on the situation.

Burt said Woodbury is imposing the new watering restrictions in advance of the changing EPA guidance.

“Irrigation use is really significant. It adds three to four times the amount of water any normal day does,” Burt said. “We believe two-day-a-week watering is enough. Deeper watering less often is also better for your lawn and better for the environment.”

She said it will also help relieve the city’s water system, whenever the new state or federal regulations go into effect.

“The most important thing is making sure people have safe water to use inside their home for cooking, cleaning, washing, what have you. We view water for irrigation really to be discretionary type water,” Burt said.

Woodbury residents have mixed opinions on the new plan.

“I was rather upset. We’ll have brown grass and then you worry about, is it going to come back in next year?” said Karen Bauman, who lives in Woodbury.

Bauman also believes the ongoing development of homes and apartments throughout the city is impacting the water supply.

“When you keep building every month or so, you’re saying to a developer: ‘Make 600, 700 more houses.’ And then you’re telling us we don’t have enough water? That’s not reasonable,” Bauman said.

Paul Stueber, who also lives in Woodbury, has been trying to bring his grass back to life after last year’s drought.

“It’s a challenge, it really is, because grass takes a lot of water,” Stueber. said. “But you know what, when it comes right down to it, me being able to drink water is more important than watering my lawn.”

Others said it will be a waiting game with the weather, to see what happens with lawns throughout the city.

“So far, Mother Nature’s been good. Everything’s green,” said Tim Sandell, another Woodbury resident. “We’ll see what Mother Nature does for us the rest of the summer.”

The city of Woodbury said it will try to educate residents about the new watering restrictions before enforcing penalties.

The fine for a first violation of the policy will be $50, with fines doubling for every repeated offense.