On Thursday, Nov. 3, the 3M Company agreed to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) order to sample and provide treatment to address contamination from per- and polyfluoroakyl substances (PFAS) found in drinking water in the vicinity of 3M’s Cordova, Illinois, facility, a news release says.

Recent sampling results provided by 3M indicate the widespread presence of a mixture of at least 19 different PFAS chemicals in drinking water within a 3-mile radius of the Cordova facility, the release says. “Given the unique circumstances affecting this community, including more than five decades of PFAS discharges and the many types of PFAS chemicals found, EPA has concluded that the situation constitutes an imminent and substantial endangerment under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act,” the release says. 

“I have directed EPA staff to use every enforcement tool at our disposal to require manufacturers of PFAS to address potential endangerment to the public and to compel them to characterize, control, and clean up ongoing and past PFAS contamination,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Communities have suffered far too long from exposure to these chemicals. This settlement is a critical step forward in our work to protect communities from pollution and hold polluters accountable for their actions.”

“Illinois EPA has worked closely with U.S. EPA regarding PFAS contamination in drinking water around 3M’s Cordova Facility, and we support this work to ensure provisions of safe drinking water in the area surrounding the facility,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim. “Illinois EPA has been active in assessing the impact of PFAS, both on a statewide basis and at 3M’s Cordova Facility. This action, coupled with Illinois EPA’s ongoing work is an example of our state-federal partnership to maintain a safe and healthy environment throughout Illinois,” he said in the release.

As part of this settlement, 3M is required to offer treatment to all private well owners within 3 miles of the facility and to the Camanche Water Supply in Iowa, in an effort to remove PFAS from the drinking water. 3M is also required to offer drinking water sampling out to 4 miles from the facility for private well owners and out to 10 miles from the facility for public water systems as well as to the Quad Cities’ public water systems, using EPA protocols and conducted under EPA oversight.

3M’s sampling of the drinking water in private wells near the facility detected a range of concentrations including: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) of non-detect to 25 ppt, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid  (PFOS) of non-detect to 30 ppt, hexafluoropropylene oxide dimer acid (HFPO-DA), or “GenX” of non-detect to 59 ppt, and perfluorobutane sulfunate (PFBS) of non-detect to 51 ppt. 3M did not use EPA test methods for this sampling. As a result, the order issued today requires 3M to sample these wells again following EPA test methods.

3M was one of the original companies developing and producing PFAS within the United States, and their Cordova facility operations and discharges containing PFAS chemicals date back to the 1970s. 3M’s agreement to the terms of the Order including completing the work required under EPA’s oversight is an important step to begin addressing the problem created by decades of contamination. This settlement is part of EPA’s ongoing efforts to compel major PFAS manufacturers to characterize and control ongoing releases from their facilities.  

Background

Last year, EPA launched the PFAS Strategic Roadmap, a whole-of-agency approach for addressing PFAS. The Roadmap sets timelines by which EPA plans to take specific actions and commit to new policies to safeguard public health, protect the environment, and hold polluters accountable.

In the national PFAS Roadmap, EPA commits to investigate releases of PFAS and where needed require manufacturers to characterize and control their PFAS releases. In the Roadmap, EPA also commits to take swift action to address potential endangerments to public health. EPA is actively working with its state partners on this effort, which will build upon valuable work led by a number of states.  

 Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively called “PFAS,” are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. There are thousands of different PFAS chemicals, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others.