Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minnesota)
February 28, 2006
Scientist issues PFC report
Former MPCA employee details research into 3M chemical
BY DENNIS LIEN
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
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
"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
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
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 email@example.com or 651-228-5588.
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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