Past mistakes can be costly
June 17, 2009

A jury in Minnesota has returned a verdict in favor of the 3M Company, saying that the company behaved as responsibly as the knowledge of the time allowed when it allowed perfluorochemicals to make their way into the ground around the Twin Cities until the mid-1970s. Homeowners had sued the company, saying that the presence of those chemicals in their groundwater damaged their wells and reduced their property values. Certainly the company is pleased to have avoided additional judgments against it, but it's already spent $15 million on cleanup efforts, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- or $50 million, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Either way, cleanup costs in the millions of dollars for mistakes made 30 years ago or longer are eye-openers to any firm involved in the industrial use of water today. We have seen similar cleanup-related issues in Iowa and Nebraska, at places like army ammunition depots and former munitions plants in both states. In many circumstances, the concerns surround the contamination of groundwater via dumping and spills. Contemporary producers and users of chemicals may wish to note the value of geomembrane liners to create a long-term durable barrier against the infiltration of chemicals into the soil, where it almost inevitably seems to leach into groundwater supplies.

June 2009
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last revised June 2009