Mike Edgerly

Mike Edgerly is executive news editor for MPR News.


MPCA researcher reports dramatic test results as she's forced out

Blood samples taken from Mississippi River fish near a 3M plant show high levels of a chemical related to the company's former Scotchgard operations. The level of the compound PFOS found in some of the fish is believed to be the highest found anywhere in the world. The tests were conducted by a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency scientist who left the agency this week, after a long dispute with her bosses over her research.

MPCA scientist claims harassment for speaking out about chemicals

A research scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency claims her bosses are trying to keep her from speaking out about the spread of potentially toxic chemicals. Fardin Oliaei has filed a federal complaint against the MPCA, alleging retaliation for talking to Minnesota Public Radio about chemicals from 3M's Scotchguard operations found in wells in the east metro area. One state legislator says he believes the MPCA has attempted to silence the scientist.

Part 1: The science

3M's announcement in 2000 that it was phasing out its popular Scotchgard product led to a major investigation by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. The anti-stain spray contained chemicals toxic to lab animals. The chemicals had also turned up in the blood of 3M workers, though the company said its employees were not harmed.

On the state level, an investigation by Minnesota Public Radio and American Radio Works found that even after 3M said it would no longer make the chemicals, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency let two years pass before it began any inquiries. 3M developed the chemicals in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. The MPCA moved into action only after 3M approached it, to say the drinking water at its Cottage Grove chemical plant was contaminated.

Over the next two years, the MPCA's top researcher on new chemicals was repeatedly denied the chance to investigate how far the toxins may have spread.

The story raises questions about who is responsible for the safety of the public and the environment. And about whether state agencies are doing enough to protect citizens from toxic chemicals.