Senator John Marty has provided leadership far beyond just passing legislation. He uses his power to protect people. When I blew the whistle on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's attempt to hide evidence of PFAS pollution, he supported me and tried to hold the MPCA accountable. His work is critical to the wellbeing of Minnesota. I am so grateful to know John. It would be an incredible loss if Senator Marty were no longer in the Minnesota Senate.
For more than 15 years, I worked for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency investigating contaminants of emerging concern. I loved working at the MPCA. It was rewarding and challenging and I was proud to serve the State of Minnesota. However, things began to get hard when a new commissioner was appointed by Governor Pawlenty, a person who left 3M to head the agency (Senator Marty would later refer to this as the fox guarding the hen house).
When my research uncovered that toxic chemicals made by 3M were showing up at alarmingly high levels in Minnesota’s waterways, aquatic life, and Minnesotan's blood, agency leadership forced me to stop and told me I would be fired if I told anyone about it. It was then realized that every Minnesotan had these chemicals in their blood, including vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women. As a scientist, it was and continues to be, inexcusable to me to suppress the truth like this–especially when it threatens the health of people and the environment. It’s against everything you are trained to do.
I was concerned that if I didn’t share my research, the safety of Minnesotans would be threatened, so I decided to speak out. With the support, encouragement and empowerment of Senator Marty and a few other legislators, I testified in Senator Marty’s Health Committee about my research. It was through this testimony that the Legislature and the rest of the state first learned about the threat posed by PFAS, substances now known as “forever chemicals.”
Despite the fact that the state never recognized the important contribution I made, my research is the basis for the State of Minnesota’s $5 billion lawsuit against 3M for polluting groundwater with PFAS. Ironically, the very same study that forced me out of my job is now the top citation for peer reviewed research on PFAS, with literally hundreds of articles referencing this work. If I hadn’t testified in Senator Marty’s committee, no one would have ever known my research existed.
Being a whistleblower is incredibly hard. They destroyed my career, my livelihood, my wellbeing. It impacted my family, too. And my sacrifice is rarely recognized. But Senator Marty always believed in me and supported me. I believe we need more people like John Marty in Minnesota government. He raises up the voices of silenced and marginalized people.