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A major Minnesota employer is being fined more than $2.8 million for violating pollution-related regulations.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says the civil penalty stems from a two-year investigation involving a series of hazardous waste violations at the 3M plant in Cottage Grove. It found numerous violations dating back to 1996 involving materials sent to the facilities incinerator, the storage of about 1300 containers of hazardous waste, releases from damaged storage containers, and a variety of infractions concerning testing for hazardous materials in the plant's waste stream and failing to meet the requirements of the permits issued for operating the facility.

  • In 1996, 2006, 2012-2014, 2017-2018, and 2020-2021, 3M inaccurately identified hazardous waste sent to its incinerator as non-hazardous waste.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, over the course of 109 weeks, 3M failed to have a certified third-party laboratory independently verify the accuracy of the incinerator laboratory’s analysis, as required by its permit.
  • From 2014 to 2020, 3M failed to conduct verification on more than 1,800 waste stream profiles for mercury, lead, nickel, cadmium, arsenic, and other hazardous materials to ensure the waste did not exceed limits.
  • Since 2016, 3M failed to require two third parties that sent waste to the Cottage Grove incinerator to submit comprehensive data for arsenic, PCBs, lead, mercury and other hazardous materials.
  • 3M stored approximately 1,300 containers of hazardous waste in unapproved areas, 650 of which were stored for longer than the one-year limit.
  • 3M reported six releases from compromised storage containers over a period of six months.
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A news release about the investigation notes that "it does not appear the incineration of the hazardous materials related to this investigation exceeded limits and resulted in violation of 3M's air permits." In addition to the fine, the MPCA says 3M has completed 24 corrective actions.

According to the state agency, the facility in Cottage Grove was used to store and incinerate hazardous waste from all 3M operations in North America until it was shut down at the end of last year.

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