PFOA 2006
Scientist issues PFC report.
By Dennis Lien. Pioneer Press (Minnesota). February 28, 2006.


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• Read Dr. Oliaei's report: Investigation of perfluorochemical (PFC) contamination in Minnesota. Phase One. Report to Senate Environmental Committee. By Fardin Oliaei, Don Kriens and Katrina Kessler. February 2006.

Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minnesota)

February 28, 2006

Scientist issues PFC report
Former MPCA employee details research into 3M chemical


Fardin Oliaei gave Minnesota a parting gift Monday — a 79-page report that outlines contamination from a troublesome family of chemicals once manufactured by 3M Co. and recommends ways to research it further.

Oliaei, a research scientist who left the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last month after a dispute with her superiors, presented the report to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, which held the last of three hearings on the issue. She prepared it specifically for the committee and largely after she resigned from the agency.

The report wraps up work Oliaei did as the agency's emerging contaminants coordinator and recaps how the MPCA has dealt with perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, at east metro sites since it learned about the chemicals several years ago.

Included are the most detailed findings yet of fish and sediment contamination in the Mississippi River near 3M's Cottage Grove plant, where an estimated 50,000 pounds of PFCs were once discharged into the river each year.

After her presentation, the MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Health pledged to continue researching the chemicals, which do not break down and have been linked to health problems in laboratory animals.

"We have every intention of seeing this work through to its conclusion,'' said Kristen Applegate, MPCA deputy commissioner.

Until 3M phased out the chemicals in 2002, they were used in a range of consumer products such as Scotchgard. 3M has maintained they pose no threat to people or the environment.

Oliaei's report documented exceptionally high levels of PFCs, predominately perfluorooctane sulfonate, in Mississippi River fish livers and blood. She said one fish, a white bass, had the highest level of PFOS blood contamination ever found. The collective concentrations, she said, indicate contamination from the 3M plant.

"For someone of her expertise to be doing this on her own time for an agency that kicked her in her teeth is amazing,'' committee chairman Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said after the hearing.

Oliaei recommended the fillets of those fish be tested, an action the MPCA says will be done soon. To better understand how the contaminants might affect people and wildlife, she also recommended a broader look at more fish, other aquatic species, mammals and birds that consume the fish, and sediment as far downstream as Lake Pepin.

She also made research recommendations for other sites with high PFC levels: the Washington County landfill, now closed; 3M's Cottage Grove wastewater treatment plant; the Pine Bend Landfill; and the Metro wastewater treatment plant.

After the two-hour hearing, Marty said he didn't expect to hold others or to introduce any related bills in the upcoming legislative session.

Oliaei had accused her bosses of trying to obstruct her work last year but agreed to drop a pair of legal claims in exchange for resigning and accepting an out-of-court settlement.

"She gave us some useful recommendations on what to do next,'' Marty said. "Scientists from around the world will be looking at this. My only fear is the agencies are not going to do what the study suggests.''

Dennis Lien can be reached at or 651-228-5588.

Fast fact

Not yet categorized as a human carcinogen, PFCs have been linked to liver problems, cancer and other health issues in laboratory animals. The synthetic chemicals repel oil and water.

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