After nine years of legal proceedings, the city of Lake Elmo reached a settlement with 3M Co. over drinking water contamination.

At the Tuesday, May 21 meeting, the Lake Elmo City Council unanimously accepted a proposed settlement of $2.7 million and ownership of 180 acres of land, which 3M will transfer to the city.

Lake Elmo City Administrator Kristina Handt said city staff are relieved and excited “about moving forward and just putting this behind us.”

The city of Lake Elmo filed a lawsuit against 3M in 2010 and again in 2016 after one of the city wells was contaminated by perfluorochemicals (PFCs), pollution that is a result of materials 3M legally placed in landfills in the 1970s. State officials first discovered groundwater contaminated by PFCs in several east metro cities including Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Oakdale, St. Paul Park and Lake Elmo in 2004.

Exposure to high levels of PFCs has been linked to adverse health effects after prolonged exposure, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Since the settlement comes as a resolution to Lake Elmo’s lawsuit, Handt said the settlement money will go into the city’s water account, which funds the construction, maintenance and operation of Lake Elmo’s water system.

The 180 acres that will be transferred to city ownership as part of the settlement is located near Lake Elmo’s Public Works facility.

Handt said the city is considering how to best use the land including possible uses for future city buildings, public facilities like a park or redeveloping the land to sell.

“Nothing has been decided for sure,” Handt said.

The city will dismiss its lawsuit against 3M as part of the settlement.

Lake Elmo was also a co-plaintiff in the state’s lawsuit against 3M for pollution-related issues that resulted in an $850 million settlement in 2018. The city has acquired funds through that lawsuit to drill a new well, which Handt said should be online by summer 2020.

“There’s many, many steps to getting a new well online,” Handt added.

In April 2018, Lake Elmo city officials shut off well one after the MDH found unsafe levels of PFCs. With that well out of commission, Lake Elmo has two of its four wells operational to supply the city’s water needs until the new well is in service.

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