Nearly 60 closed landfills in 41 counties have PFAS contamination in groundwater that exceeds the state's health value

Contacts: Cori Rude-Young, 612-986-1285; Darin Broton, 651-226-0078

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) today announced per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in groundwater at 59 closed landfills in 41 counties. Groundwater at each of these sites exceeded the Minnesota Department of Health’s health-based guidance values for PFAS. Overall, the MPCA has found PFAS contamination in groundwater at 98 of the 101 tested sites in the closed landfill program.

Fifteen closed landfills have PFAS contamination that exceeds state health-based guidance values by at least 10 times. The Minnesota Department of Health has developed health-based guidance values to represent levels for various PFAS in drinking water that MDH considers safe for people, including sensitive populations, over their entire lifetime.

“The MPCA has found PFAS contamination in almost every closed landfill it oversees,” said MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop. “Once again, our assessments tell us that PFAS is everywhere in our environment. That’s why the agency needs the ability to use dedicated funds more flexibly to rapidly respond to these urgent contamination incidents.”

In order to rapidly address unexpected environmental releases or incidents, the MPCA requested the ability to use funds in the Closed Landfill Investment Fund (CLIF) during the 2021 Minnesota legislative session. Under current state law, the MPCA must wait until the legislature appropriates funding before responding to a contamination incident. Legislative delays or gridlock could put Minnesota communities at risk.

Closed landfills with PFAS contamination in groundwater exceeding state health guidelines by more than 10 times
Landfill County PFAS Times (X) over
health-based values

Gofer

Martin

PFOA

1,343

Freeway

Dakota

PFOA

714

Washington County

Washington

PFOA

657

WDE

Anoka

PFOA

197

Chisago Isanti County

Isanti

PFOS

49

St. Augusta

Stearns

PFOA

29

Louisville

Scott

PFOS

22

Faribault County

Faribault

PFOS

21

Watonwan County

Watonwan

PFOA

19

Minnesota Sanitation Services

Le Sueur

PFOS

19

Korf

Pine

PFOA

18

Crosby American Properties

Dakota

PFOS

15

East Bethel

Anoka

PFOA

14

Tellijohn

Le Sueur

PFOS

13

WLSSD

St. Louis

PFOS

12

Gofer Landfill, outside of Fairmont, has PFAS levels in groundwater that are more than 1,300 times the state’s guidance
At the Gofer Landfill, located north of Fairmont in Martin County, multiple PFAS have been detected in groundwater at concentrations 1,343 times the health risk limit at the landfill. PFAS contamination has been detected in nearly all of the monitoring wells at the landfill, in an adjacent creek, and one off-site, temporary monitoring well. According to the MPCA, all drinking water wells within a mile of the landfill have been tested and PFAS was not detected in any of the drinking water wells. The agency is further investigating to identify the area of contamination coming from the landfill. Gofer Landfill closed in 1986.

Louisville Landfill, near Shakopee, has PFAS exceedances along with an underground fire
Along the banks of the Minnesota River in Scott County, the Louisville Sanitary Landfill operated for 22 years until it closed in May 1990. According to MPCA reports, seven out of 12 active groundwater monitoring wells report PFAS exceedances. The MPCA will sample nearby residential water supply wells as well as Gifford Lake and the Minnesota River.

In addition to PFAS contamination, an underground fire started at the landfill in late 2020.

Additional monitoring and testing required to protect water and human health

With the discovery of PFAS contamination in groundwater, the MPCA will expand its water monitoring to ensure drinking water is monitored and the full extent and magnitude of the contamination is known. Ongoing samplings of groundwater around these sites will help determine the impact of PFAS contamination while informing the need for additional remedial actions. Significant PFAS contamination in groundwater can be addressed by installing an engineered system to pump groundwater that will control the movement and reduce the impact of the contamination. The MPCA plans to conduct feasibility studies to determine how best to treat groundwater and leachate contaminated with PFAS.

In February 2021, the MPCA, along with other state agencies, released Minnesota’s PFAS Blueprint – a strategic, coordinated approach to protect families and communities from PFAS. The Blueprint included immediate, short- and long-term strategies that state agencies, the Minnesota Legislature, industries, and local governments should consider to prevent, manage, and clean up PFAS contamination. An identified immediate need was responding when PFAS are found in closed Minnesota landfills and a short-term strategy was developing plans to monitor PFAS in groundwater at active landfills.  

Map: 97% of assessed closed landfills have PFAS contamination