MPCA press conference highlights widespread PFAS pollution in closed landfills across the state

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) held a press conference this week to discuss the emerging issue of PFAS contamination in closed landfills across the state. Legislators and environmental advocates joined for a press conference to highlight the widespread health and environmental impacts of PFAS contamination.

Recent monitoring and testing from the MPCA have found PFAS contamination in 98 out of 101 closed landfills in the state of Minnesota. 60 sites currently exceed the state’s health and safety guidelines, with 15 of those sites experiencing contamination exceeding guidelines by 10 times or greater. These sites are located across the entire state, in rural and metro communities alike. MPCA officials stated that limited resources and capacity have prevented them from testing groundwater in many areas surrounding closed landfills, so the full scope of the issue is not yet fully known.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a large family of man-made chemicals that are also considered “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in the environment. Minnesota was among the first states to identify PFAS pollution and has been a leader in studying the health effects and in responding to contamination. PFAS chemicals continue to be used in food packaging today and have been used in other products, including cookware and paint.

In 1994, the Minnesota Legislature created the Closed Landfill Program, which remains a one-of-a-kind program in the nation. The program is designed to maintain certain mixed municipal waste landfills over the long term and places the closed landfills under state control. The MPCA is requesting additional resources and flexibility to combat PFAS contamination originating in Minnesota’s closed landfills. Under current law, the MPCA cannot access the dedicated funding from the Closed Landfill Investment Fund (CLIF) without legislative action, unnecessarily delaying emergency containment and remediation efforts.

This year, Senate and House DFLers have been urging Senate Republicans to work together to provide the necessary funding for tackling PFAS pollution head-on, as this is a statewide problem that could harm Minnesotans in every corner of the state. There are currently several DFL bills in the Senate related to understanding and combatting PFAS pollution, but they have yet to receive a single committee hearing from the majority party.