PFAS-containing foam found in Washington and Ramsey counties

3M East Metro Settlement Updates

PFAS-containing foam found in Washington and Ramsey counties

In late 2019, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) found and confirmed elevated levels of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in two creeks in Washington and Ramsey counties.

Washington County
The eastern metropolitan area of the Twin Cities is a known area of PFAS contamination in groundwater and surface waters that was traced back to four landfills or dump sites. As part of the 2018 3M Settlement, the MPCA is investigating how a large flood control project completed in the late 1980s, known as Project 1007, is contributing to PFAS contamination in the East Metropolitan Area.

This past summer, during a surface water investigation in the Project 1007 area, foam was observed on Raleigh Creek in Oakdale. The foam samples had elevated levels of PFAS. Surface water samples collected in the same areas showed much lower levels of PFAS. 3M has been instructed to investigate its 3M Oakdale disposal site for PFAS contamination in surface water.

The MPCA continues to investigate Project 1007 to help understand how PFAS are transported in groundwater and surface water in the East Metro.

Ramsey County
A single sample of foam taken from Battle Creek in the city of St. Paul had elevated PFAS levels. Additional samples along Battle Creek in St. Paul and Maplewood were collected in January 2020, with results expected in February. The area along Battle Creek is being investigated to identify the source of PFAS contamination.

Health concerns
At this time, the MDH has evaluated the information and PFAS-containing foam on surface water does not pose a risk to human health if skin contact is minor and infrequent. MDH recommends:

  • People and pets should avoid contact with foam on surface waters in this area.
  • Wash skin that has come into contact with PFAS-containing foam with soap and water.

How foam forms
Most foam observed in lakes or streams is naturally occurring, and not an indicator of pollution. Foam is created when air mixes with natural organic compounds, such as decomposing plant material. Where PFAS is found in surface water, like creeks and lakes, PFAS-containing foam can occur. PFAS-containing foam looks like naturally occurring foam.

What is PFAS?
PFAS substances are a family of man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1940s.

Their ability to repel water and oil and withstand high temperatures has made PFAS a particularly useful ingredient in industrial and commercial products, including non-stick products, stain- and water-repellent clothing, and fire-fighting foams.

These chemicals do not easily break down in the environment and have been known to accumulate in the environment and humans. Two PFAS compounds, perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), are the most extensively studied of these chemicals.

For more information
PFAS and health:
PFAS-containing foam:

In February 2018, Minnesota and the 3M Company settled their lawsuit regarding natural resource damages associated with a group of chemicals known as PFCs. 3M is making a grant of $850 million as a condition of the settlement to address two priorities in the east metro area. Priority 1 is safe drinking water and groundwater sustainability. Priority 2 is restoring and enhancing natural resources.