City stops legal action against company
LAKE ELMO — The city of Lake Elmo and 3M are stepping out of the courtroom and will talk at the negotiation table.
City and company officials announced Tuesday they have agreed to eliminate litigation between them and will enter into talks about monitoring perfluorochemicals (PFCs) and collaboratively review facts and scientific data relating to the city’s groundwater quality.
City Administrator Dean Zuleger said Lake Elmo’s tolling agreement with 3M allows the city to bring litigation back if necessary at a later date.
“It allows us to take a break (from litigation),” Zuleger said about the tolling accord.
In mid-January 2011, Lake Elmo intervened in a lawsuit against 3M brought by the state of Minnesota alleging the Maplewood-based company damaged the state’s natural resources through 3M’s manufacture, use and discharge of PFCs such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
3M voluntarily stopped manufacturing the PFCs mentioned in the lawsuit more than a decade ago.
Zuleger said the Lake Elmo City Council unanimously voted Aug. 6 to cease the ongoing legal action. According to Zuleger, one reason for the decision was an appellate court ruling that upheld 3M’s motion to exclude the state Attorney General’s outside counsel.
Another reason Zuleger cites for the decision is the council’s philosophy of wanting to work with communities and organizations.
“This council is of a different mindset than the last council and it allowed us to take a look at the best way to proceed on this issue,” he said.
Zuleger also mentioned 3M’s longtime presence in the city. Lake Elmo is home to the company’s Tartan Park, many company employees live in the city and three former Lake Elmo mayors have worked for the company.
“I think 3M is a good corporate citizen,” he said.
Zuleger believes city and company officials can work together on issues related to PFCs and the chemicals’ effect on the city’s groundwater.
“The encouraging part of this discussion is that 3M is a recognized innovator worldwide. They think outside of the box,” he said.
The two parties have yet to talk, but will work on an agreement to start talks, Zuleger said.
“Both parties, understandably because of the litigation, have been reluctant to discuss the case,” he said. “I assume we will be doing something in the next 30 to 60 days.”
Zuleger called the city’s agreement with 3M to eliminate litigation between the two and talk “part of the maturation process of the city.”
“This is typical of the way the city wants to move forward,” he said. “It’s another step forward.”
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