"In a $20 million job that's the largest of its kind in state history, workers in protective suits are unearthing trash in Lake Elmo that hasn't seen the light of day for more than three decades.
Their mission is not to burn the wastes or haul them off to another state, but to rebury them in a state-of-the-art pit that will keep chemicals that went into Scotchgard and other 3M products from getting into any more drinking water.
Excavating 33 acres of garbage, and then putting it back in the same place, may seem like a curious way to handle trash that has rested undisturbed since 1975.
However, the former Washington County landfill is not your typical dump. Wastes taken there from the 3M Co. in the early 1970s have contaminated groundwater in nearby Lake Elmo and Oakdale.
That has led to one of the biggest attempts to go back and undo decades-old environmental practices that the metro area has ever seen.
Residents have switched to clean sources of drinking water, but the chemicals are still in the landfill, a potent source of contamination for years to come unless removed and isolated."