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One year after cutting an $850 million check for water cleanup in Minnesota, manufacturing giant 3M is settling similar contamination claims in Alabama, though the final amount is unclear. The company announced the settlement with the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority regarding a drinking water contamination lawsuit near its plant in Decatur.
3M produced perfluorinated chemicals PFOA and PFOS at the Decatur facility for decades, and those chemicals were found in the water supply in amounts considered unhealthy by lowered federal standards.
"Both parties are grateful for the cooperation and work that has gone into getting this settlement finalized," 3M announced in a statement. "This settlement will allow for a new filtration system at WMEL. WMEL will continue to supply safe drinking water that meets all applicable PFAS guidelines without passing on any additional construction or treatment costs -- a great thing for WMEL and its customers in Morgan and Lawrence Counties."
According to WHNT, WMEL installed a carbon filtration system to filter out PFOS chemicals in September 2016, after the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the acceptable amount of perfluorinated compounds that are safe for human consumption. That's only a temporary fix, however, and the water authority has plans to install a reverse osmosis system and have it online by December 2020. That system is expected to cost over $40 million, though the 3M settlement may cover some of that cost.
Decontaminating Drinking Water
There is no federal ban on PFOA and PFOS chemicals, and 3M says it stopped producing them at their Decatur plant in the early 2000s. The compounds were used in popular products like Teflon and Scotchgard. "The state of Alabama has an agreement with 3M to try and clean up chemicals at the plant site," reports WHNT, "but there is no state limit on how much of the chemicals the company can discharge from the plant into the Tennessee River.
The EPA has been investigating perfluorinated chemicals and their toxicity since 1999. 3M has been involved in several PFC-related clean-ups at facilities, and one of its former dumps in Minnesota was declared an EPA Superfund site due to contamination by pollutants and other hazardous substances.
If you've fallen ill because of contaminants in your drinking water, contact an experienced environmental attorney today to discuss your legal options.