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City waits on new water restrictions

Cottage Grove will hold off on instituting new restrictions on midday lawn watering until city leaders meet with state officials this week about finding a way to reuse millions of gallons of water being pumped out of south Washington County's aquifers as part of 3M's efforts to clean up contaminated groundwater.

Under pressure from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to lower the city's per capita water usage, public works officials proposed a ban on residential irrigation between noon and 4 p.m. for properties on the city's water system, as well as an amendment to the city's water conservation ordinance that would have allowed the public works director to impose emergency regulations in extreme conditions.

But city council members said Wednesday the amount of water saved by tacking the midday restriction on top of the city's existing odd-even watering regulations would have been a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of gallons of water being pumped, treated and dumped into the Mississippi River during 3M cleanup efforts.

Council members expressed their irritation at the DNR pressure over the city's water usage juxtaposed with the huge volume of groundwater being pumped out and dumped into the river.

"I would like to hear their proposal on their conservation of that water before we impose something on the citizens (who are) using a small amount compared to what will come out of (the 3M Cottage Grove) site," said council member Mark Grossklaus, who moved that the stricter watering regulations be tabled.

3M will dig additional wells on its Cottage Grove site and construct a water treatment facility as part of the company's cleanup plan for perfluorochemicals discovered there in 2005. It is estimated that 9.2 million gallons of water will be pumped out of the ground daily in an effort to contain the spread of the chemicals.

That, city engineer Jennifer Levitt said previously, is more water than the cities of Cottage Grove and Woodbury combined use in a single day.

City officials will meet next week with representatives from the DNR, Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to discuss ways to reuse the pumped-out groundwater.

Options suggested by the city include the creation of wetlands or large-scale irrigation.

Mayor Myron Bailey said in an interview he had no qualms with measures that conserve the amount of water residents are using to green their lawns. But, he added: "I find it hypocritical and disingenuous for (the DNR) to be talking about sprinkling bans when they're allowing for the water to be pumped out of aquifers."