University files lawsuit over hazardous materials detected at properties near Rosemount

The University’s lawsuit claims the federal government and DuPont are responsible for environmental concerns at its properties.

by Michael Achterling

The University of Minnesota is suing the federal government and DuPont over hazardous materials detected at one of its properties. 

The $3 million lawsuit, filed with the U.S. District Court of Minnesota on Aug. 11, is seeking reimbursement for investigations and potential cleanup costs at a nearly 8,000-acre University property near Rosemount, Minnesota.

The land makes up the University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Park and Vermillion Highlands. The site was originally operated by DuPont through a government contract during World War II to make gunpowder. Around 29 million pounds of smokeless gunpowder and associated chemicals were manufactured on the property, according to court documents.

The site was gifted to the University after World War II through the Formerly Used Defense Sites Program, run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

A remedial investigation released by the University in May identified multiple sites of concern at the property with soil containing lead, mercury, arsenic and other chemicals above screening criteria.

“Filing the lawsuit with the [University] is a necessary step to obtain reimbursement for the University’s investigation costs to date, and to help ensure that the site is cleaned up in a manner that would make it safe for future use,” said Evan Lapiska, University spokesperson. 

The University has repeatedly tried to involve DuPont and the government in its environmental analysis, Lapiska said, but those efforts were unsuccessful.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesperson Walker Smith said the property’s cleanup “could take years.” The MPCA gave oversight on the University’s investigation and will also do so for the cleanup.

The University is currently working with the City of Rosemount to sell a 435-acre parcel on the property.

“Before any development occurs, we need to make sure that it is satisfactorily cleaned up to the appropriate standards,” said Kim Lindquist, Rosemount’s community development director.

There are always strategic plans for redevelopment and cleanup with sites like UMore Park, Lindquist said. 

The University will likely make more than $170 million in added revenue from the land sale, but the cleanup — depending on the lawsuit’s outcome — could total $50 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resource Division is representing the federal government in the case and will issue a response to the lawsuit by Oct. 13.