Citing the need to better understand where and how PFAS is being released into our waters, air, and soil, the MPCA today released its statewide PFAS monitoring plan that will initially focus on water testing and air emissions reporting at 379 facilities throughout Minnesota. Inclusion on the monitoring plan facility list does not necessarily mean a facility is releasing PFAS to the air, surface, or groundwater — it only means they have been identified as a potential emitter, and monitoring is a necessary initial step.
Twelve months ago, Minnesota laid out a comprehensive, long-term plan to protect families and communities from harmful PFAS contamination,” said MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler. “This monitoring plan is the next phase of our commitment to better understand where and how PFAS is entering Minnesota’s environment.”
The list of facilities includes eight regional airports in Greater Minnesota — Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, International Falls, Hibbing, Rochester, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls — where having PFAS-containing firefighting foam on site is required. An additional 137 manufacturing and industrial facilities will be asked to conduct additional monitoring. Ninety-one wastewater treatment plants, including six Metropolitan Council facilities in the Twin Cities metro, have been included due to manufacturing and other industries in their communities.
The MPCA also expanded its search for PFAS to 143 active and operating landfills, recycling facilities, and composting centers. In March 2021, the MPCA announced that nearly 60 closed landfills in 41 counties had PFAS contamination in groundwater. The agency continues to determine the extent of contamination at those sites.
Minnesota’s PFAS monitoring plan is one of the most comprehensive approaches in the nation to understanding PFAS in our environment. PFAS, or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a group of more than 5,000 man-made chemicals also known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment. Some are known to cause serious health conditions.
The PFAS monitoring plan requests that the facilities conduct sampling and information reporting to the MPCA by the end of 2023. The MPCA is expected to release a summary of its findings in 2024. While other states like Colorado, California, and Connecticut have taken a more regulatory approach to address PFAS in the environment, Minnesota is using new monitoring data to work with facilities to make better-informed decisions about PFAS releases.
In addition to the monitoring plan, the MPCA highlighted additional legislative efforts this year to address PFAS, including:
- PFAS prevention grants: Governor Walz has requested $2 million to establish a PFAS prevention grant program to identify PFAS sources design projects to prevent PFAS pollution.
- PFAS baseline conditions study: Governor Walz has requested $500,000 to determine ‘normal’ levels of PFAS found in soil or water and levels associated with local sources of pollution.
- Wastewater PFAS reduction grants: Governor Walz has requested $2.175 million to provide technical assistance and grants to Greater Minnesota communities in their efforts to meet wastewater treatment pollutant limits and reduction requirements, including for PFAS.
The need for statewide measurement was particularly apparent when the MPCA listed several Greater Minnesota water bodies as impaired for PFAS contamination where there have not previously been concerns about PFAS.
The full list of facilities included in the PFAS monitoring plan can be found on the MPCA website.