Faced with an ongoing crisis of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in its groundwater, the city of Woodbury has asked state lawmakers to cover half of the cost of a new, 2 million-gallon water tower.

The $14.8 million project would help the city provide treated water to all residents during periods of peak demand, said Public Works Director Mary Van Milligen.

The city pitched the project to state legislators Tuesday during lawmakers' stop on a "bonding tour" — an opportunity for lawmakers to travel the state to hear local pitches for state bonding and infrastructure dollars.

The water tower is just the latest project Woodbury has contemplated, designed, or built in recent years to filter toxic PFAS from groundwater pulled from aquifers deep below ground.

The water-quality situation in Woodbury is serious — and ongoing.

The state Department of Health has issued health advisories on 10 of the city's 20 wells due to PFAS contamination. The city expects that number to climb as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state health department this year moved to lower the levels of PFAS contamination that trigger health warnings. An additional eight wells could receive health advisories, city staff have warned.

The city was notified in 2017 that five of its 19 wells were drawing water with higher than acceptable levels of PFAS. Four more wells were later found to have PFAS contamination as well. The city built a temporary treatment plant in 2020 to fix water from six of the contaminated wells. The remaining three were closed.

A long-term solution won't be available until 2028, when Woodbury expects to finish a new water treatment plant capable of filtering all of its water of PFAS.

The city will pay for its new water treatment plant with money from a $850 million settlement reached in 2018 between the state of Minnesota and 3M, maker of the PFAS substances that have leaked into water supplies across the metro area and worldwide. Settlement money will also pay for about 18 miles of pipeline needed to connect wells.

But Woodbury officials told lawmakers that they need help with the water tower, a project for which settlement money was not available. The city will have to find other funding for another $40 million of PFAS-related costs.

Rep. Amanda Hemmingsen-Jaeger, DFL-Woodbury, said Woodbury deserves credit for the work it has done to provide drinking water. Asked if the state will help pay for more PFAS-related infrastructure, Hemmingsen-Jaeger said: "I'm optimistic."

Woodbury has also introduced a host of water conservation measures to help it provide drinking water to some 25,000 homes, businesses and schools in the city of 82,000 people.

It limits lawn watering to two days per week unless a property has a state water appropriations permit.

The city has been among the first in the country to build new water treatment plants specifically designed to clean PFAS and PFOA from its water supply.

Mayor Anne Burt said she was at a recent conference where she met other mayors, some of whom had little idea of what PFAS contamination means for a city. As the chemical turns up in more municipalities — it's now been detected in all 50 states — more cities will have to figure out how to pay for the cleanup.

"I don't think they fully understand what's coming at them," she said.