Read the full article by Chloe Johnson (The Gazette)

“3M has agreed to widespread water testing and treatment for people living near its Cordova, Ill., factory after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that contamination from PFAS — the ‘forever chemicals’ — has created ‘an imminent and substantial endangerment’ of drinking water supplies.

The requirement, part of an EPA administrative order, comes as the agency is accelerating its response to these substances. This move toward regulation and a bevy of lawsuits based on the health effects of these chemicals present a mounting cost for Minnesota-based 3M, which developed the compounds and uses them in products like the water-and-stain protector Scotchgard.

The firm’s Cordova plant is beside the Mississippi River just north of the Quad Cities area, on the Iowa border. The company operates many plants along the Mississippi River. The Cordova plant was permitted to discharge wastewater into the river by EPA, with a requirement to monitor PFAS levels. But in 2019 it told the agency it was releasing more of the chemicals than it had reported. In all, the order notes that at least ’60 PFAS analytes’ were released into the air, water and soil around the plant.

‘Communities have suffered far too long from exposure to these chemicals,’ EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement. ‘This settlement is a critical step forward in our work to protect communities from pollution and hold polluters accountable for their actions.’

In a statement, John Banovetz, an executive vice president at 3M, said that ‘This agreement demonstrates the positive impact that engagement between regulators and 3M can have for communities, and we appreciate the EPA’s work to reach this milestone.’

David Cwiertny, a University of Iowa engineering professor and director of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, said he’s glad 3M is being held accountable.

‘These folks are unfortunate to be very near a 3M facility, but at least we’re helping them,’ Cwiertny said.

But he wonders where else there might be similar contamination. ‘The only way you can try to get your hands around a problem is to figure out where the chemicals were used and where they are coming from,’ he said.” …