October 26, 2005
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (Minnesota)
Lawmakers looking into 3M chemicals, 'outrageous'
By Tom Meersman, Star Tribune
Legislators criticized the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
on Tuesday for not aggressively investigating the environmental
effects of chemicals formerly used by the 3M Co. to make nonstick
cookware and stain-resistant fabrics.
The criticism surfaced at a Senate Environment and Natural Resources
Committee meeting that featured testimony by agency researcher
Fardin Oliaei. She began studying the chemicals about five years
ago and said that for the past three years, her proposals to test
for them have been rejected.
Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said he
was extremely troubled by additional allegations: that Oliaei
has been reprimanded for talking to reporters, that she has had
to pay her own expenses and take vacation time to present her
findings at scientific conferences, that her immediate supervisor
who also wanted to expand the research was replaced suddenly last
year, and that her most recent proposal was given to a different
scientist and its objectives changed.
Marty, committee chairman, said it is "outrageous"
that agency managers are overruling some of their experts. It's
"mucking around with science and telling scientists not to
do their work," he said.
Kristen Applegate, the agency's deputy commissioner, said she
could not address the details of the situation because Oliaei
has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the agency.
But Applegate said the agency is studying whether the chemicals
are showing up in the Mississippi River near the 3M plant in Cottage
Grove where they were produced until 2000, as well as in landfills
where they were disposed and in wells near those dumps. Applegate
and other agency officials said that Oliaei's supervisor was changed
as part of a realignment and that travel and research funds are
That was insufficient for Sen. Sharon Marko, DFL-Cottage Grove,
who said water quality should be the top priority for the agency.
"It seems like the ball has been dropped, and I sure hope
it has not been dropped intentionally," she said.
Marko and others were displeased that MPCA
Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan did not attend the hearing. Corrigan
was a manager for Maplewood-based 3M before her appointment as
commissioner in late 2002. Applegate said Corrigan has recused
herself from all decisions related to 3M.
Marty said he expects to have an additional hearing on the public
health issues related to the 3M products.
Tom Meersman • 612 673-7388
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