Minnesota pollution control officials to ask businesses to test for 'forever chemicals'

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Tuesday released a draft plan that would ask hundreds of facilities to test for PFAS.

Minnesota Department of Health student paraprofessional Carolyn Enright holds a water sample from a private well in West Lakeland Township, Minnesota, in this 2019 photo. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has an ambitious strategy to deal with PFAS — human-made “forever chemicals” that have polluted public drinking water supplies, and accumulated in fish and wildlife. Christine T. Nguyen / MPR News

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials on Tuesday, Nov. 16, said they are hoping to work with hundreds of businesses around the state to test and monitor the spread of PFAS, long-lasting chemicals that can contaminate water and cause health problems in animals and people.

MPCA leaders released a draft proposal on Tuesday that would ask wastewater treatment plants, landfills, airports, chrome plating facilities and automotive shredders to collect samples from their facilities and have them tested for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS.

The new rules are aimed at limiting the spread of the chemicals before they enter waterways or contaminate the air. And the information gleaned from testing could help the state better understand what kind of PFAS are being created by or moved through Minnesota facilities, MPCA PFAS Coordinator Sophie Greene said.

“We’re anticipating that we’ll get a broad swath of data, not just about the legacy PFAS, but also about these newer PFAS that we’re expecting to see a little bit more in some of these facilities,” Greene said.

The guidelines aren't final. And they could be tweaked before they're expected to take effect early next year. The agency requested public input on the new rules before December 20.



Greene along with MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler said they hoped that asking producers to start testing would yield a stronger response than requiring the assessments. The tests can cost up to $500 per sample. They said Michigan had positive results after taking a similar approach.
“We recognize that if we can do things with partners in a voluntary or less regulatory atmosphere, we’re going to be successful faster," Kessler said, "but we do have authority to require treatment and reduction if this approach shows that more reduction is necessary."

MPCA officials last week reported that for the first time PFAS had been detected in Greater Minnesota waterways. The state now has 26 bodies of water that are polluted by PFAS in levels that don’t meet water-quality standards.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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