Oakdale is getting ready for a $26 million swap of its water wells.
The city will be trading in four polluted wells for three new water wells, starting in 2024.
At a workshop Jan. 25, the city council reviewed plans for the changeover, which is part of a $700 million upgrade for the water systems affected by the pollution.
According to city engineer Brian Bachmeier, the city operates nine wells, so the capping of four of them will make substantial changes in how the city gets its water.
Oakdale’s new wells were included in a plan by state agencies to upgrade water systems in 13 cities, including Woodbury, Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove. That plan, issued in August, relies on money from the 3M Co. to clean up water polluted by chemicals manufactured by 3M.
In 2018, 3M settled an environmental damage lawsuit for $850 million, which was reduced to $700 million after legal expenses. The money was designated to insure clean water supplies for the affected cities.
Traces of the chemicals were discovered in 2004 in the drinking water in the southwest part of Washington County. The chemicals had leaked from landfills where 3M dumped them — legally — ending in the 1970s.
In the parts-per-trillion amounts, they have never been proven to have any effect on human health, although in mega-doses they cause cancer, thyroid problems and birth defects in laboratory animals.
This won’t be the first time 3M has paid for clean water in Oakdale.
Engineer Bachmeier said that in 2012, Oakdale shut down one of its nine wells because of the pollution, and 3M replaced it with a new one. The company also installed a filtration system which cleaned the water from two city wells.
For Oakdale, the plan calls for capping three polluted wells, in addition to the one capped in 2012. The settlement money will pay for three wells, an expansion of a filtering station and new water pipes. The new wells will be clustered around the city’s Public Works Department site on Hadley Avenue.