Environmentalist lawsuit says chemicals polluting TN River

A nonprofit environmental organization has filed a federal lawsuit against two companies, along with three governmental entities, over the dumping of chemicals, reports the Decatur Daily.

Tennessee Riverkeeper Inc. filed the suit against 3M, BFI Waste Systems, the city of Decatur, Decatur Utilities and Morgan County because of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) being dumped in the Tennessee River and landfills, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, alleges the dumping has contaminated groundwater, private water supplies, the river and its tributaries and wildlife, and public drinking water supplies.

The organization claims the dumping has created an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment,” Executive Director David Whiteside said in a statement.

The chemicals were used at 3M to make nonstick coatings until 2000, when the company voluntarily announced it would phase them out. Before then, 3M believed the chemicals were not hazardous, said the company’s attorney, Travis Carter, of Dallas.

The company no longer produces PFOS or PFOA in Decatur, so any presence of the chemicals is from prior manufacturing, Carter said.

3M said it has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to reduce or eliminate the presence of the chemicals at the plant and in the Decatur area. Remediation began in 2006 and will continue through 2019, the company said.

However, the EPA and ADEM have not established regulations that prohibit the discharge of the chemicals, so 3M always has operated “legally and in compliance with regulations,” Carter said.

The attorney for the city and county, which jointly own the Morgan County Regional Landfill, said the entities also are working to reduce the amount of chemicals released into the environment through the landfill and the DU Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Attorney Barney Lovelace said the city and county also haven’t violated any regulations in the discharge of the chemicals.

Lovelace said his clients believe the cost of removing the chemicals from the environment should be placed on the companies that dumped the waste in the landfill and through DU’s wastewater plant.

3M said it has studied the effects of the chemicals in its own employees and found no adverse health effects from exposure.