Belgian authorities have finalized stricter PFAS pollution standards, keeping a 3M plant near Antwerp partially idled.
Regulators cracked down on the "forever chemicals" last fall after testing showed elevated levels of PFAS in local residents' blood.
The government further tightened the emission standards in a decision released last week.
"For companies like 3M, I expect them to fully invest in limiting the present concentrations of hazardous substances to the strict minimum," Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir said in a statement to Belgian media. "There will be close monitoring to ensure that these discharge standards are respected and action will be taken in the event of violations."
3M said it supports the reduced discharge limits but takes issue with restrictions on remediation technology and timeframes, according to a news release.
PFAS — short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a family of chemicals with nonstick and water-resistant properties used to make a range of products. They do not break down in the environment and have been linked to health problems and groundwater pollution in Washington County and elsewhere.
The plant in Zwijndrecht, Belgium, is one of five PFAS manufacturing sites Maplewood-based 3M has around the world. The others are in Alabama, Illinois, Germany and Cottage Grove.
On Wednesday, 3M filed a new appeal to the Flemish Council for Permit Disputes, asserting the latest government order "would lead to greater discharges of PFAS from the Zwijndrecht site," according to a news release.
The company said a new permit condition "disrupts 3M's ability to operate remedial technologies to address PFAS" and does not allow enough time to do so.
"The company continues to support reduced discharge limits from its operations with appropriate control technology and time to achieve those limits," the news release said.
3M said in September it would spend $145 million over three years to remediate PFAS-related problems near the Belgian plant.
In Belgium, blood tests showed high levels of certain PFAS chemicals that 3M no longer manufactures, including PFOA and PFOS. Those blood tests did not contain PFAS compounds that are currently made at the plant and that 3M says have no negative health effects, the company argued in its appeal to Belgian regulators.
The closure "has had a negative impact on 3M's ability to provide critical products to the automotive, semiconductor and data center markets globally," Wednesday's news release said.
"Our goal is to work proactively to get the plant up and running," 3M Chief Financial and Transformation Officer Monish Patolawala said at an investor conference on Tuesday. "We've got the best people on the ground to work with the government and ensure we comply with the new permit requirements."