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On Wednesday, the Stillwater City Council will talk about a city well — now closed — that when tested late last year had unsafe levels for PFAS, earning a health risk advisory from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The advisory is a first for Stillwater, but a common story in Washington County as a plume of contamination tied to 3M Co. dumping areas in Oakdale, Woodbury, Cottage Grove and the Washington County Landfill fouls drinking water across the region.

"We've shut down the well," said Stillwater City Engineer Shawn Sanders, who added that none of the city's drinking water currently comes from the contaminated well. "It's not in operation."

The state issued the health risk advisory to the Stillwater City Council on Oct. 31., in a memo that advised city officials to notify local consumers about the presence of PFAS in their drinking water supply.

PFAS contamination has been found worldwide, a result of widespread use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in manufacturing for a wide array of products from nonstick pans to stain resistant fabric and carpets, firefighting foam and some products that resist grease, water and oil.

PFAS, in general, are referred to as a forever chemical because they don't easily break down. PFAS have been found in water supplies globally, in food packaging, biosolids, food, and solid waste disposal sites. They have been detected in human blood. The chemicals are considered a health threat; they are known to cause high cholesterol, change liver function and reduce immune response. They have been linked to thyroid disease and kidney and testicular cancer.

Samples from the now-closed well contained levels of the contaminant that were "well above" the federal "maximum contaminant level" standard, Amy Barrett, a Minnesota Department of Health information officer said in an email Monday. One other Stillwater well was close to that level of concern, while others had trace levels of PFAS, she said.

On Wednesday the City Council will discuss a PFAS communications plan prepared by their consultant, TDKA. The plan calls for sharing PFAS sampling results and steps the city is taking to mitigate PFAS exposure. The city may also consider replacing well #6, according to the plan.

It's unknown if the plume will spread to contaminate any of the city's seven other wells, but that's been the experience in recent years in Lake Elmo and Woodbury, where PFAS contamination has been a problem for years. Some contamination has also been found in neighboring Oak Park Heights, according to the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy activist group that focuses, in part, on drinking-water pollutants.

Those cities are among a group of 14 municipalities receiving funds from the $850 million 3M grant created in 2018 to clean up local drinking water systems. It's not known yet if Stillwater will join that group or be eligible for any cleanup money.