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Woodbury drinking water OK, city says

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

Following Tuesday's announcement that several Washington County residents could be adversely affected by high levels of man-made chemicals in drinking water, the City of Woodbury said its water is safe.

In a letter to residents Tuesday evening, the City of Woodbury said the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has been monitoring its municipal wells for a chemical called perfluorochemical, or PFC, since the early 2000s. The state health agency determined PFC levels have remained below federal and state health risk limits.

MDH announced earlier that day that 80 Washington County households using private wells will receive bottled water and filtration systems because drinking water exceeded the new federal safety guidelines for PFC levels.

None of the private wells were located in Woodbury.

Citing new research indicating the chemical may pose health risks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency significantly reduced its drinking water guidelines for two specific PFCs, called PFOS and PFOA, from 300 and 400 parts per trillion to 70 parts per trillion.

In Woodbury, drinking water from city wells meets these updated requirements, according to the letter.  

State regulators will sample up to 500 wells near contaminated areas in the East Metro in the coming months.

Regulators discovered that PFCs had seeped into groundwater in parts of Washington County in 2002.

For decades, the 3M Company used PFCs, including PFOS and PFOA, at its Cottage Grove facility for producing Scotchgard anti-stain spray until 2002. The company legally disposed of products containing the chemicals in Oakdale, Lake Elmo and Woodbury landfills until the 1970s.

Other manufacturers used PFCs to produce fabrics, furniture, firefighting foam, nonstick cookware and other products.
The chemical has been phased out in recent years, but it continues to remain in the environment, especially within fish,  according to MDH.

MDH designated areas near a PFC dumpsite in the southeastern corner of Woodbury as medium- to high-priority sampling areas.

City spokesman Jason Egerstrom said few residents live in that area, and those who do are serviced by private wells. “They’re not hooked up to the municipal water system,” he said.

MDH is reviewing the EPA’s studies and recommendations to determine new guidelines in light of the EPA’s findings.

A review is expected to be completed in the next several months. In the meantime, Egerstrom said the city will continue to update residents on the health department’s findings.

Residents living in areas with high levels of PFC contamination can still use water for bathing and cleaning, but MDH advises against using water for cooking or drinking.

“While we believe the immediate health risks for most people exposed to PFCs are low, the latest information from EPA indicates a risk for developing fetuses and infants,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger Tuesday.

Ehlinger added that people are exposed to a wide variety of chemicals and consumer products.

“Eliminating a significant source over which we have some control makes good public health sense,” he said.

Residents who have questions about private well water should contact MDH.

Private well owners can also order testing kits from Washington County for $394.

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