http://www.pca.state.mn.us

tinyURL : bkzq82b | ID : 159 Home   >   Waste   >   Waste and Cleanup   >   Cleanup   >   Superfund Program   >   Perfluorochemicals (PFCs)

main content

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs)


Current status

The latest news

  • PDF Document Results from Testing at Wastewater Treatment Plants (pfc-wwtpsampling)  (posted July 20, 2007).
  • PDF Document Settlement Agreement and Consent Order with 3M for PFC Cleanup. (pfc-3mchemolite-consent) The MPCA Citizens' Board voted 9-0 on Tuesday, May 22nd, to approve the Settlement Agreement and Consent Order with 3M regarding the 3M Chemolite Disposal site, the 3M Oakdale Disposal Site, and the 3M Woodbury Disposal Site.

  • Residents of Washington and Dakota Counties concerned about possible contamination of their private wells by PFCs are now able to get their water tested through a partnership between the counties and MDH.  The cost for testing is $384 in Washington County, $387 in Dakota County. Visit Washington County or Dakota County for more information.

  • PDF Document Proposed Consent Order on PFCs - A Summary of Negotiations (pfc-consentorderfactsheet) (May 16, 2007)

  • The Proposed Consent Order presented to the MPCA Citizens' Board on May 22, 2007.
  • Citizens' Board Action:
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens' Board voted on April 24, 2007, to postpone the MPCA Commissioner's recommendation to issue Requests for Response Action (RFRA) to the 3M Company for PFC contamination at three disposal sites in Washington County. Instead the Board directed the agency and 3M to negotiate cleanup agreements for the three sites by the Board's next regular monthly meeting, scheduled for May 22nd. The Board affirmed in its motion that if negotiations are not successful by then, the Board may again consider issuing the RFRAs. The Board’s motion also directed MPCA staff to ensure that negotiation discussions include the following topics:
    • Cleanup plans should be rigorous and robust
    • Full recognition of MPCA’s legal authority
    • Provisions for dealing with affected municipal and private water supplies
    • Provisions for addressing PFBAs in future
    • Any additional studies needed on health effects and payment for the state’s costs
    • Any additional cooperation needed from 3M, in terms of sharing information
    • Future RFRA action is not precluded

MPCA actions

The MPCA is involved in a number of activities related to cleanup and research about perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs.  Some of the most notable of these include:

  • Working with the Minnesota Department of Health to sample private and municipal drinking water supplies;
  • Evaluating closed and active landfills that may have accepted waste containing perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA);
  • Sampling Mississippi River sediment and discharge from outfalls at the 3M Cottage Grove facility;
  • Sampling effluent from a number of wastewater treatment plants statewide, including the Twin Cities metro plants;
  • Fish tissue sampling;
  • Review and oversight of 3M's investigation and cleanup plans for sites in the Superfund program;
  • Coordination of information with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about PFOA; and
  • Developing water-quality criteria for surface water discharge of PFOS and PFOA.

Health information

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is responsible for setting limits for contaminants in drinking water.  Because PFCs are present in drinking water in some areas, the MDH developed criteria, known as Health Based Values (HBVs), for PFOA and PFOS. HBVs are criteria that MDH considers safe for human consumption over a lifetime.

In early March 2007, MDH issued revised HBVs for PFOA and PFOS of 0.5 micrograms per liter (?g/L) and 0.3 µg/L, respectively. These limits were adopted as Health Risk Limits (HRLs) by rule in August 2007. For more information, visit Minnesota Department of Health.

For information on removing PFCs from drinking water, please see the following MDH fact sheet:

Residents of Washington and Dakota Counties concerned about possible contamination of their private wells by PFCs are now able to get their water tested through a partnership between the counties and MDH.  The cost for testing is $382 in Washington County, $387 in Dakota County. More information is available on the Washington County and the Dakota County web sites.

More complete information about potential health effects of PFCs and the limits determined to be safe to drink, visit the MDH website.

You can also receive the latest information from MDH by subscribing to MDH's Perfluorochemicals and Health in Minnesota e-mail updates.

What are PFCs?

Perfluorochemicals or PFCs are a family of proprietary 3M chemicals that have been used for decades to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water.  In the past, PFCs including perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS), perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA), and perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) were not regulated. 

Common uses include nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, components of fire-fighting foam, industrial applications, coatings for packaging such as milk cartons, cosmetic additives, and other personal products. 

The chemical structures of PFOS and PFOA make them extremely resistant to breakdown in the environment.  PFOS and PFOA are bioaccumulative in humans and animals.  Less is known about PFBA.

What is the PFC connection to Minnesota?

The 3M chemicals that contain PFOS, PFOA and other PFCs were produced in Minnesota at the3M Chemolite facility in Cottage Grove. Historically, production waste from 3M was disposed of in Minnesota at the Cottage Grove site as well as 3M Oakdale (Superfund site) and the Washington County Landfill (a Closed Landfill Program (CLP) site).  The MPCA has also been looking at other sites that may have accepted 3M production waste containing PFOS, PFOA, and other PFCs. 

It is important to note that a number of consumer products that used Scotchguard (produced by 3M) or Teflon (produced by Dupont) may contain various PFCs.  In 2002, 3M stopped using PFOS and PFOA in Scotchguard products.  The company announced this phase out in 2000.    

There are still other PFCs generated by 3M.  The MPCA may require 3M to conduct additional investigation or testing to ensure that current PFC generation does not pose a risk.

Sampling and pilot test for ground-water treatment at Washington County Landfill

The Closed Landfill Program (CLP) began  PDF Document ground-water sampling (c-clf2-03) for PFOS and PFOA at the Washington County Landfill in the spring of 2004.  PFOA was found in the ground water at low levels.  The MDH laboratory expanded the PFC analysis to seven compounds in early 2005; in response sampling was expanded to residential wells near the landfill in Lake Elmo and Oakdale.

The CLP completed a pilot test on anionic resins at the Washington County Landfill for treatment of ground water contaminated with PFOS, PFOA and PFBA, and also completed laboratory tests on activated carbon as a potential treatment method during the summer of 2007.  The CLP is looking at the design and associated costs of building and operating an on-site treatment system and is evaluating a range of other potential corrective actions, including a design to dig up the landfill, create a lined site, and place the wastes back on the liner.

Sampling in Lake Elmo and Oakdale

The MPCA and MDH have sampled over 500 private residential wells in Lake Elmo and seven wells in Oakdale as of September 2007.  So far, 166 residential wells in Lake Elmo and one in Oakdale have PFCs in excess of the well advisory guidelines set by MDH.  Residents exceeding the well advisory guidelines have received bottled water until granular-activated carbon (GAC) filter systems can be installed or city water is connected to their homes.  The MPCA has been coordinating bottled water efforts and GAC installations for those that have not been connected to municipal water in Lake Elmo.  There are currently 46 Lake Elmo residences treating their drinking water through GAC units; more will be added in the fall of 2007. 

An additional 177 private wells have been found to contain low concentrations of PFCs, below MDH guidelines.  Fifty-nine private wells in Lake Elmo and six in Oakdale were found to contain no PFCs.  

MPCA and MDH staff are also tracking stormwater impacts on the PFC plume.  Historical research is ongoing to determine the interactions between Lake Jane and Sunfish Lake, Raleigh Creek and Eagle Point Lake, and Eagle Point Lake and Lake Elmo.  Targeted sampling of residential wells between these surface water features is assisting staff in defining the PFC plume.

Active landfill evaluation for PFCs

In 2006, the MPCA developed a strategy to screen open solid waste facilities in Minnesota for the presence of PFCs.  As part of this strategy, the MPCA looked at various landfill types that did not receive production waste from the 3M Cottage Grove facility.  The screening results are being used to assess the impacts associated with PFC contamination generated from residential, commercial, and industrial products in the waste stream. Results from continuation of this work in 2007 are available below:

Sediment and fish tissue sampling for PFCs from the Mississippi River and metro-area lakes

Sediment cores and river water were collected upstream and downstream of the 3M discharge to the Mississippi River from the Cottage Grove facility.  PFC contaminant levels between 10 and 99 parts per billion were found in river core sediments.  This may be significant, however the aquatic and ecological effects are unknown.  The MPCA has developed water-quality criteria numbers for surface-water discharge of PFOS and PFOA (see below).

The MDH periodically revises the Fish Consumption Advisories to include guidelines for eating fish contaminated with PFCs. Advices have been issued for fish from Pool 2 of the Mississippi River (the section of the Mississippi between the Ford Dam and Hastings) that may contain PFOS and PFOA and, in 2007, for a number of lakes in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.  More results from testing on metro lakes and other state waters will be available in late 2007.  Check the MDH Web site for most current fish-consumption advice related to PFCs.

Water-Quality Criteria for PFOA and PFOS

In January 2006, the MPCA began developing ambient surface-water quality criteria for perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). Site-specific criteria were finalized in August 2007. The method that was to be used to develop this criterion is that published in Minnesota Rules, Chapter 7050.0218 Methods for Protection of Surface Waters from Toxic Pollutants for Which Numerical Standards Not Promulgated. This effort entails the development of the specific values for a chemical.

MPCA Investigation and Cleanup of 3M PFC Waste Sites

The MPCA provides oversight of work plans or actions related to PFC contamination at three sites -- 3M Chemolite site, 3M Woodbury site, and 3M Oakdale site -- under the state Superfund program. A fourth site, the Washington County Landfill, is being addressed under the state Closed Landfill Program.

In the spring of 2007 the MPCA and 3M negotiated a Consent Order bringing investigation and cleanup of the three sites under the formal Superfund process.  The Order was approved by the MPCA Citizens’ Board in April 2007.  Submittals required under the Consent Order and other selected documents related to the four sites are available on the PFC Cleanup Sites Web page.

PFC-containing firefighting foam — MPCA/MDH investigation

In the spring and summer of 2008 the MPCA surveyed Minnesota fire chiefs about their departments' use of PFC-containing firefighting foams.  Based on the survey results, MPCA and MDH are jointly investigating the possibility that PFCs may be found in soil or ground water at fire-training sites that used PFC-containing Class B firefighting foams.  Starting in spring 2009 MPCA sampled selected firefighting training sites  and MDH sampled municipal wells near about two dozen of those locations.

As of July 2009 most of the samples had been collected, and results are in various stages of quality checking.  At a couple of training sites there were a few detections of PFCs in groundwater that exceeded established Health Risk Limits (HRLs) for PFOA, but MDH found no exceedences of any drinking-water standard in municipal wells.  MPCA plans to continue sampling soil and groundwater at other sites and will conduct follow-up sampling at the sites that had elevated levels later this summer.  When the agencies have completed their sampling analysis, the MPCA’s results will be posted here and MDH’s will be on the MDH Web site.

Environmental Protection Agency activities for PFOA and other PFC compounds

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received information in the late 1990s indicating that PFOS was widespread in the blood of the general population and presented concerns for persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity.  After 3M terminated production of PFOS, EPA began review in 2000 of similar chemicals including PFOA.

In January 2005, the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics submitted a Draft Risk Assessment of the Potential Human Health Effects Associated With Exposure to Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Its Salts (PFOA) to the EPA Science Advisory Board for public peer review.  EPA sought this early stage scientific peer review from an outside panel of experts to ensure the most rigorous science in evaluation of PFOA.  It is important to note that the draft assessment is preliminary and does not provide conclusions regarding potential levels of concern, but does highlight the scientific approaches to be used developing the EPA’s revised PFOA risk assessment.

In January 2006, EPA invited companies responsible for PFOA and related chemicals to enter a stewardship program.

Future MPCA activities

Since a number of household, commercial, and industrial products containing PFCs are ultimately disposed of in solid waste facilities and landfills throughout Minnesota, additional sampling has been done at solid waste facilities evaluated during the 2006-07 landfill screening efforts, including ground-water sampling of downgradient monitoring wells.  Sampling was expanded in 2007 to include other types of landfills that don’t have synthetic liners.

Fact sheets and presentations

Links

More information

For more information about MPCA’s involvement with perfluorochemicals, contact Ralph Pribble, Public Information Officer, 651-757-2657.

Last modified on October 21, 2013 14:15