In 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began investigating perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) after receiving data on the global distribution and toxicity of PFOS. 3M, the former primary producer of PFOS from the U.S., announced the phase-out of PFOS, PFOA, and PFOS-related product production in May 2000. PFCs produced by 3M were used in non-stick cookware and stain resistant fabrics. The Cottage Grove facility manufactured PFCs from the 1940s to 2002. In response to PFC contamination of the Mississippi River and surrounding area, 3M states the area will be "cleaned through a combination of groundwater pump-out wells and soil sediment excavation." The restoration plan is to be based on an analysis of the company property and surrounding lands. The on-site water treatment facility that handles the plant's post-production water is not capable of removing the PFCs, which were released into the nearby Mississippi River. The clean-up cost estimate is $50–56 million, which will be funded from a $147 million environmental reserve set aside in 2006. The search area for PFCs in the Mississippi River now extends to five states, spanning approximately half of the river's total distance. Perfluorochemicals do not break down or degrade in the environment.
In 1983 the Oakdale Dump in Oakdale, Minnesota was listed as an EPA Superfund site after significant groundwater and soil contamination by VOCs and heavy metals was uncovered. The Oakdale Dump was a 3M dumping site utilized through the 1940s and 1950s.
In 2002, 3M ranked 70th on the Political Economy Research Institute's (PERI) list of the top 100 corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the U.S. In March 2010, PERI ranked 3M at 98th place on the list.
In 2008, 3M created the Renewable Energy Division within 3M’s Industrial and Transportation Business to focus on Energy Generation and Energy Management.
In late 2010, the state of Minnesota sued 3M claiming they released PFCs, a very toxic chemical according to the EPA but unknown at the time of release, into local waterways.
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