North & East Metro GWMA Update

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minnesota department of natural resources

North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area Update

July 23, 2019

The advisory group for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area met for the first of its semi-annual meetings at the end of May, at the Oakdale Discovery Center. The agenda included updates on the transient groundwater flow model, particularly in relation to White Bear Lake and associated litigation; where things stand with the 3M settlement around PFC contamination, and a progress report on implementation of the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area plan. Finally, attendees provided feedback and participated in a discussion about the plan implementation moving forward.

White Bear Lake and the transient groundwater flow model

Jason Moeckel, DNR inventory, monitoring & analysis section manager, presented information on recent efforts to better understand the hydrogeology near White Bear Lake and surrounding areas using the transient groundwater flow model developed for DNR. The model shows that:

  • Current groundwater use complies with the Minnesota groundwater sustainability standard;
  • Temporary irrigation bans within nearby cities would not have a significant effect on water levels of White Bear Lake;
  • Current and past groundwater use has contributed to water levels falling below the protective elevation of 922 feet set for White Bear Lake; and
  • Groundwater use in the area has been declining.

A summary of the technical analysis completed in August 2018 can be reviewed here:

Moeckel noted that the model will prove very useful for evaluating any changes in pumping, or for evaluating other scenarios. For instance the agency has recently used the model to look at potential impacts resulting from:

  • Raising White Bear Lake's outlet by one foot;
  • Reducing all permitted appropriations by various percentages to keep the lake above the protective elevation of 922 feet;
  • Removing the two or three of the largest groundwater users as a simulation of using an alternate water source;
  • Expanding the area under review by expanding it to include all permitted groundwater use within seven miles of the lake.

One of the next scenarios to run through the model will attempt to determine likely impacts resulting from projected growth in the northeast Twin Cities Metro Area.

Moeckel also provided a brief update on the White Bear Lake court case. He explained the Minnesota Court of Appeals, on April 22, 2019, reversed a prior District Court decision and remanded the matter back to the District Court for further administrative proceedings. On May 21, 2019, the plaintiffs in the case filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court under petition for further review and on July 16, 2019 the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

3M settlement in east metro area

John Seaberg, a groundwater specialist with the DNR, provided an overview and update on a project arising from the 3M Company’s settlement with the state related to groundwater contamination. Seaberg is the agency’s technical lead on the project.

Manufactured by 3M for decades at its Cottage Grove plant, perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a group of chemicals that were used in nonstick cookware coatings, water and stain repellents for fabrics, and other applications. 3M disposed of wastes from the manufacturing process at three sites in Washington County, resulting in widespread groundwater contamination in the east metro area. Under a 2007 agreement, 3M paid for remediation at the disposal sites and for short-term fixes to provide safe drinking water. In 2018, 3M agreed to pay the state $850 million to settle a lawsuit over PFC pollution to settle a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Minnesota’s attorney general. The money (totaling about $720 million after legal and other expenses), is to be used to address three priorities (in order of importance):

  1. Provide a sustainable supply of clean drinking water;
  2. Enhance aquatic resources, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreational opportunities in the area or further downstream;
  3. Fund statewide water resources, habitat restoration, open space preservation, recreation improvements or other sustainability projects.

To implement the settlement agreement and guide expenditure of the funds, the DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) as co-trustees have established two working groups and three technical sub-groups composed of citizens, local government officials and other stakeholders. The technical sub-group on drinking water supplies has begun work to develop plans for providing clean, sustainable drinking water for all east metro communities, identifying 10 initial supply options for further consideration. The sub-group will be evaluating these options in relation to community needs and characteristics and issuing a report and recommendations toward the end of this year.

More information on the 3M settlement project can be found at:

Plan implementation update

DNR project manager Dan Miller summarized progress on implementation of the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area plan. Miller provided several handouts detailing activities that had been started or completed toward meeting the plan’s five objectives, as well as those remaining to be undertaken. Additional information can be found on the project webpage:

Discussion & Feedback

During the second half of the advisory team meeting, attendees reviewed the commitments in the Groundwater Management Area Implementation Plan and provided feedback on an evaluation form and in small groups. The small groups then reported out to the larger group in attendance.

Collectively, many advisory team members commented on the benefit of the groundwater management planning and implementation effort as a vehicle that has developed partnerships and improved understanding about groundwater and groundwater modeling work from DNR staff and others. In addition, advisory team members agreed there is much to be accomplished, particularly in the area of water education and outreach, water reuse strategies, and groundwater recharge.

Next Meeting

The North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area advisory team will next meet on Friday, November 8, 2019 at the Vadnais Heights Commons from 9 am to noon (12 pm). Additional meeting details will be sent out in advance to everyone signed up to receive North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area email updates. You can subscribe here:

More Information on the GWMA:

Project Website:

Or contact:

Dan Miller, Project Manager

Phone: 651-259-5731