About 80 Cottage Grove residents came to a community meeting Tuesday night armed with questions about the meaning of a Minnesota Health Department announcement last week that a 3M chemical in drinking water poses less risk than first thought.
Skeptics included Kathy Lewandosky, who said too little is known about contamination from perfluorobutanoic acid, or PFBA, which has been found in city and private wells. She said that 3M should buy bottled water for affected residents. Explanations of the lowered health risk “proved nothing to me,” she said.
Resident Jim Kuhns said he came to find out more about the health risks of drinking water from his private well. He said he remains concerned about the cumulative effects of PFBA.
Health Department officials explained their findings to the crowd, assembled at All Saints Church, including how geology and aquifers work under Cottage Grove and how to choose an effective water filter.
The Health Department announced Thursday that a 3M chemical in the drinking water of six east-metro communities, discovered a year ago, was diluted to the point that it poses little risk. The agency said an interim safety level it had set was overly cautious and raised the maximum allowable concentrations of PFBA from 1 part per billion to 7 parts per billion.
Clean Water Action of Minnesota warned this week that residents should continue filtering water until the Health Department’s findings are independently confirmed. The environmental advocacy group said the Health Department’s announcement should not be misinterpreted as a guarantee of safe drinking water.
Ginny Yingling, a state hydrogeologist, said that despite the new standards, the Health Department will continue long-term monitoring and investigations at 3M disposal sites.
“More relief than concern,” is how Myron Bailey, a Cottage Grove City Council member, portrayed community reaction before the meeting.
The new Health Department recommendation means that none of the city water systems is considered contaminated, although some private wells are still higher than the limit.
PFBA is part of a family of chemicals that 3M used to make products such as nonstick cookware and fire-suppression foams resistant to heat, oil, grease and water.
The chemical is most widespread in southern Washington County groundwater, although two other chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, have been detected in a small portion of Cottage Grove.
The Cottage Grove meeting and one held in Hastings on Tuesday evening were the first of several community meetings scheduled. For details on other meetings, see www.startribune.com/a4093.
For information about water filters, see the Minnesota Department of Health website, www.startribune.com/a4094.