In the agreement, approved by both parties, 3M is now expected to contribute $ 12.5 million to the construction of the facility and treatment operations.
Bemidji City Council approved an agreement on Monday March 8th to resolve its claims against 3M, which produced the chemicals. This emerges from a joint press release by the city and 3M. The chemicals known as PFAs are widespread in the environment and do not degrade over time.
Such chemicals have been used in various products, including fire-fighting foams, since the 1930s. For the past 20 years they have been viewed as emerging contaminants.
Bemidji Regional Airport, located near the city’s water wells, has been used as a training ground for local fire departments who have used the foam in the past. In 2016, the city began analyzing the amount of PFAs in the water wells and decided to build a chemical treatment facility to meet environmental and health standards set by state agencies.
In the summer of 2020, the city approved a $ 7.34 million project to build the facility. A second phase is planned in the future to expand the facility and increase the amount of water that can be treated. In the fall, lawmakers approved a $ 10.1 million bonding bill for the second phase of the project.
Around the same time, in mid-October, the city filed a lawsuit against 3M.
“Our estimate for the second phase is $ 10.1 million, including pre-planning, engineering, construction and equipment,” said City Manager Nate Mathews. “Government funding will help build the project, as will 3M funding. The facility will have a new treatment mechanism that will result in operating costs, and we know we will need to hire an additional employee to maintain this facility operate. These funds are used for these purposes. “
A statement in the press release said, “The city believes the agreement provides a permanent funding mechanism to complete and operate its treatment system at no additional cost to residents – great for Bemidji and its water customers.”
“I am very satisfied with the result of the agreement. It is the result of months of discussion and negotiation with 3M,” said Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince. “I think it’s wonderful news for our community.”
The facility is expected to be operational this month.