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3M will pay Bemidji $12.5 million to help treat water

BEMIDJI — The city of Bemidji has reached a settlement with 3M to help pay for treating contamination in the community’s water supply.

3M will pay $12.5 million toward building and operating a new treatment facility to remove chemicals known as PFAS, which the company manufactured for use as firefighting foam.

The city found elevated levels of PFAS in its wells in 2016 and linked the source of the contamination to firefighting foam used during training at the regional airport, which is located near the wells, Minnesota Public Radio News  reported.

Some PFAS have been linked to health problems including low birth weight, kidney and thyroid issues and some cancers.

The agreement was a “long time coming,” city manager Nate Mathews said. He said there was a lot of anxiety in the community when the PFAS were discovered.

“I think people in Bemidji are feeling a good sense of relief that we addressed the issue,” Mathews said. “It was a big, complicated project and a long, long process, and it’s good to get some conclusion to that.”

The first phase of the $16 million treatment project is expected to be online within the next couple of weeks, Mathews said.

Construction on the second phase, which will allow the city to treat more water, will start this summer or fall and take about two years to complete.