Midwest river towns looking for answers after forever chemicals found in water

Read the full story from Northern Public Radio.

This fall, the towns and rural farmsteads along the Mississippi River received alarming news about their drinking water. Chemicals from a large 3M factory north of Cordova found a way into the river and their wells.

The facility employs about 500 people and makes the adhesives used in Post-It notes, Scotch tape and other popular products. It also produces a family of chemicals called PFAS, otherwise known as “forever chemicals,” whose threat to human health has prompted increasing concern among federal and state environmental agencies.

Water and wastewater sampling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2019 detected the chemicals. Now the agency says the drinking water of nearly 300,000 people, including the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, will need additional testing to ensure it is safe.

Earlier this month, the EPA announced that PFAS contamination from the 3M factory has created “an imminent and substantial endangerment” of public and private drinking water supplies. In a Nov. 2 EPA order, Minnesota-based 3M agreed to investigate PFAS contamination in private wells and public water systems up to 10 miles away from the plant.
The situation has left local officials in a dilemma: they want to reassure people about their drinking water, even as they face unanswered questions about health risks and who will pay to clean up the contamination.

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