Woodbury gets its tap water supply from the Jordan aquifer. As precipitation soaks through the soil, groundwater moves through an aquifer, finally resurfacing to feed springs and wells. PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, have been found in Woodbury’s groundwater source over the last few years. Widely used in manufacturing and consumer goods, PFAS are artificial bioaccumulative and bio-persistent substances that remain in organisms indefinitely without disintegrating.
The southeast Twin Cities suburb is taking emergency measures to combat the so-called “forever chemicals” contamination, resulting in the shutdown of several wells. Woodbury’s plans for a temporary treatment plant, projected to finalize in 2025, will help remove the chemicals and ensure the city has enough clean water to meet user demand.
Why Does Woodbury, MN, Have Water Quality Problems?
Officials in Woodbury declared an emergency in 2020 after 7 of the city’s 19 wells were taken offline due to having PFAS levels that exceeded Department of Health thresholds. PFAS chemical contamination was linked to materials dumped decades ago at landfills East Metro disposal sites by the 3M Cottage Grove facility.
The emergency action established plans to construct a new filtration plant northwest of Woodbury City Hall, near the closed-down water wells. This was after Minnesota settled an $850 million lawsuit against 3M in February 2018. The state’s attorney general alleged that the manufacturing company’s production of PFCs, now referred to as PFAS, had contaminated drinking water in the Woodbury Metro area.
How Do You Get Exposed to PFAS?
PFAS can be released into the soil, waters, and air by manufacturing processes, waste storage, and treatment facilities. Petroleum terminals, chemical manufacturers, plastics manufacturing sites, paint producers, as well as electrical component and metal product manufacturers are linked to PFAS discharge.
As such, you risk exposure if you consume farm produce, game animals, or fish cultivated or reared in or around PFAS-contaminated soil or water. Consumer products, like food packaging, water-repellent clothing, or stain-resistant upholstery, may expose people to PFAS. PFAS can also be found in cleaning products, grease-resistant paper, and nonstick cookware, including personal care products, such as nail polish, shampoo, and eye makeup.
Drinking contaminated private or municipal well water also increases your risk of getting exposed to PFAS substances. Exposures expected to be minor are breathing in fine water droplets and through skin contact, for example, when washing dishes or showering.
What Are the Health Effects of PFAS?
Exposure to PFAS in minute amounts may not cause adverse health problems. However, extreme chemical levels in the body have been linked to a compromised immune system, thyroid disease, kidney disease, and high cholesterol. These “forever chemicals” have been linked to increased cancer cases, too.
As endocrine disruptors, PFAS interfere with our hormonal mechanisms. This potentially leads to reproductive health issues, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, an increased risk of congenital disabilities, and testicular cancer, among others. PFAS bioaccumulates, indicating that exposure before birth is also a cause for concern, as our bodies collect more of them over time.
Why Are Wells in Woodbury, MN, Being Shut Down?
Minnesota’s PFAS program is among the most thorough in identifying monitoring strategies for solid waste, wastewater, hazardous waste landfills, and other sites. So, when Woodbury City declared a water contamination emergency, six wells were taken out of service due to high PFAS levels.
Minnesota state agencies are collaborating to manage PFAS substances found in ground and surface drinking water systems. Woodbury does not have a traditional centralized water treatment system. The state has, therefore, developed strategies to expedite the construction of a temporary water filtration plant to protect families and communities from PFAS.
This will aid in restoring water wells that have been taken offline due to contamination from PFAS chemical materials dumped decades ago by 3M. The cutting-edge technology funded by the 3M settlement will be installed in the East Metro as part of ongoing efforts to address water contamination in the surrounding areas. Minnesota is the first U.S. state government to use the technology to remove and destroy high volumes of PFAS in polluted water.
The plant is only a temporary solution for water treatment until more long-lasting options are identified. Meanwhile, Woodbury and other cities in the East Metro are working in partnership with 3M and various state agencies on long-term home treatment of water.
How to Get Rid of PFAS in Drinking Water
Because of their resistance to environmental degradation or destruction in wastewater treatment plants and landfills, PFAS can only be treated using emerging technologies. While no federal PFAS regulations exist, most states have developed their drinking water protocols. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), for example, protects drinking water by testing community water systems (CWSs) for PFAS contaminants regularly.
This statewide monitoring project aims to determine whether PFAS levels in Minnesota’s drinking water exceed guidance values. Due to their widespread use in consumer products and contamination of soil, air, and water, several states including Minnesota, have passed policies restricting the use of PFAS packaging.
The Minnesota Department of Health has also created a dashboard for Testing PFAS in Drinking Water. Communities can access the MDH’s PFAS testing data and information on community water systems status. The interactive dashboard shows whether PFAS levels are above or below stipulated health-based guidance values. Finally, water softeners or iron filtration systems containing activated carbon may help remove PFAS from water supplies.
Whole-house water treatment systems are becoming increasingly popular as homeowners are conscious of the possible health risks posed by contaminants found in tap water. These point-of-use filtration units treat all of the water in your home to mitigate PFAS pollution. Want to see the level of PFAS in your city? Check out the PFAS Contamination in the U.S. Map with data from as recent as June 8, 2022. Contact us today to get a FREE Quote on a Kinetico Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filter system that can be customized to meet your home’s specific needs.