Report: 3M may face fines totaling $25k for air pollution

WAUSAU, Wis (WSAW) -- Documents received from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), detail what happened moments before a process line ran for nearly five hours without having a baghouse in operation at the 3M plant in Wausau.

A baghouse is an air pollution control device that removes hazardous particles from the air; without one in use, 3M could be subject to fines totaling $25,000.

In the documents, the DNR reports reasons to believe why 3M is responsible for violating state pollution laws. In April of 2018, an electrician visited the 3M plant to work on a power line. Once the electrician finished, they let an operator on duty know the power was back up and running.

That’s when the operator started a new process line, but failed to turn on the baghouse located at the shipping area where trucks and rail cars are loaded.

The next business day, 3M self-reported the error to the DNR and have since installed additional devices to make sure this doesn't happen again. 3M also held training to bring staff up to code on proper protocol.

In June, the DNR held a mandatory enforcement conference with 3M officials to determine how the incident happened. During the conference, 3M mentioned that staff didn't know the system could run without a baghouse. However, the system was installed in 2016 as part of a settlement between the Wisconsin Department of Justice for a separate air pollution investigation.

In 2016, 3M agreed to install the new system to avoid paying fines for air pollution.

NewsChannel 7 has reached out to the Department of Natural Resources and 3M to determine if fines will need to be paid for this incident. Our team is awaiting a response.