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Report: Wastewater is key contributor of 'forever chemicals' pollution

Nov 10, 2023


ST. PAUL — A new report from an environmental advocacy group says wastewater treatment plants and sewage sludge are key pathways for so-called “forever chemicals” to contaminate Minnesota waterways.

The report, by the nonprofit Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and a University of Minnesota professor, says Minnesota state agencies need to take stronger action to regulate PFAS in wastewater, as other states have done.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are human-made chemicals used in a variety of products, from nonstick cookware to firefighting foam.

They don’t break down in the environment and have been found in humans and wildlife across the globe. Some PFAS have been linked to health problems, including low birth weight, kidney and thyroid disease, and cancer.

The report’s authors cite two main pathways for PFAS pollution. Wastewater treatment plants collect PFAS-contaminated wastewater from industries, landfills and airports, but they're not equipped to remove the chemicals, said Carly Griffith, water program director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

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