City Proposal to Identify Sources of ‘Forever Chemicals’ Heard in Senate

March 8, 2021

Under the bill, the state would identify likely sources of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) entering wastewater systems to help cities work to reduce those inputs.

A bill proposed by the League of Minnesota Cities and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) was heard in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee on March 4.

PFAS is a large family of chemicals known for heat resistance and the ability to repel water, grease, and oil. They are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” because of their stability. Many have been found to pose health risks from accumulated exposure.

Identifying and reducing PFAS sources

SF 1410 (Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne) would appropriate $500,000 for the state to work to identify the various leading sources of PFAS compounds that end up in city wastewater systems. The state would also look at strategies for reducing the levels of those chemicals.

The bill also forms an advisory group of municipal wastewater interests to work with the state to make sure the tools being created are useful and functional.

As the state and federal government look at setting limits on these chemicals in water and effluent, it becomes more important to find source reduction options. Currently, no technology exists to remove PFAS compounds from wastewater biosolids or effluent due to the organic and sediment content and the high volume of flow.

Amendment approved

The bill was amended at the request of counties to require that similar work be done related to PFAS in solid waste and composting. That additional work is supported by cities because landfills and compost facilities are in the same situation of being held responsible for managing a pollutant that they did not introduce into the system.

The way the amendment was written in committee, however, will need some additional work to make sure both efforts are adequately funded and focused. The sources of PFAS in water and solid waste are very different, as are what can be done to reduce those levels.

Next steps

SF 1410, as amended, was laid over for consideration in the Senate omnibus environmental budget bill, so there will be plenty of opportunity to fix the language.

The House companion bill, HF 1155 (Rep. Peter Fischer, DFL–Maplewood), has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, but is expected to be discussed as part of the House environmental budget in the next few weeks.

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