3M fined $2.8 million for poor waste management at Cottage Grove plant

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On Thursday morning, state officials announced the findings of an investigation into one of 3M’s facilities and said the company was being fined $2.8 million.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says 3M’s hazardous waste violations at its Cottage Grove plant date back to 1996.

According to the agency, 3M inaccurately identified hazardous waste it incinerated as non-hazardous waste in 1996, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021. Additionally, the company no did not have the incinerator’s laboratory analysis verified by a certified third party, as required by its license, between 2015 and 2020.

The MPCA says 3M also failed to verify more than 1,800 waste stream profiles for hazardous materials from 2014 to 2020 and, since 2016, has not required two third parties that sent waste to its incinerator to provide data for several hazardous materials. The company also stored approximately 1,300 containers of hazardous waste in unlicensed areas.

State officials say they weren’t aware of the issues until 2020.

The two-year investigation found numerous violations, but the MPCA says it does not appear that 3M’s incineration of hazardous materials exceeded limits or violated the company’s air permits.

The MPCA ordered 3M to pay $2,844,694 and take 24 corrective actions to ensure it met all requirements. Some of these corrective actions include more independent storage audits and inspections, as well as proper hazardous waste storage and on-site records.

3M stopped storing and incinerating hazardous waste from all of its North American operations at the Cottage Grove plant at the end of 2021, according to the MPCA.

State officials added that the MPCA also conducted a separate investigation of the same facility and found a container of hydrofluoric acid releasing gases into the air, which the company never told the MPCA about. 3M agreed to pay an additional $80,000 and to make several changes to these findings.

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