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Woodbury takes on ‘biggest capital project’ ever: Rebuilding water treatment facilities after PFAS contamination

The Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidance this week, reducing the threshold for some PFAS’ presence in drinking water, after more research uncovered the harmful “forever chemicals” can cause health problems at a much lower level.

Some of the new maximums are so low that existing technology can’t detect them.

Next year, the first statewide restrictions go into effect that will ultimately ban all non-essential use of PFAS. The large class of manmade chemicals was originally developed in Minnesota by Maplewood-based 3M and have contaminated ground and drinking water supplies in much of the eastern Twin Cities metro.

“I’m a resident of Woodbury myself and my children, and we confidently drink the water,” she said. “The temporary treatment positions us so well right now to be confident in the water that we’re drinking.”

Ten of Woodbury’s 20 wells contained PFAS above the acceptable threshold, according to testing last summer. Public Works Director Mary Van Milligen says the city is implementing temporary treatment options and water conservation efforts while designing a long-term water treatment plant. That will be operational in 2028 — five years down the pike — but Van Milligen says people there shouldn’t turn off their taps in the meantime.

Some development in the fast-growing suburb was put on hold by the city council last year over concerns about PFAS contamination. Van Milligen says that was out of “an abundance of caution.”

Fortunately, Woodbury won’t be picking up the whole tab for the planned long-term treatment plant; much of it will be funded by a massive settlement from 3M, according to Van Milligen.

“It’s a huge deal,” she said, adding that in Woodbury’s history, “this is the biggest capital project we’ve ever managed… And we’re at a point in time in our community when we’re managing major road rehabilitation and other capital projects.”

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