Rural water customers in northern Alabama’s Tennessee River Valley are preparing to take on multinational manufacturer 3M in court, alleging its Decatur plant contaminated the drinking water supply with harmful chemicals.
Last week, Alabama federal judge Abdul Kallon approved a $5 million settlement between Daikin America Inc. and the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority and its customers. The settlement resolves Daikin’s portion of the complaint.
“We can now, on behalf of everyone harmed by these chemicals, take dead aim at the biggest corporate villain in the Tennessee Valley, 3M, and work aggressively to hold them accountable,” an attorney representing the plaintiffs said in a statement, according to DecaturDaily.com.
The bulk of the settlement – about $4 million – will go toward the installation of a temporary filtration system that will remove the industrial chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA), and other industrial toxins from the water.
The rest provides water-bill credits to more than 10,000 customers who paid water bills during a no-drinking warning last year prompted by dangerous levels of PFOS and PFOA in the water supply, and legal costs.
PFOS and PFOA are man-made chemical compounds used in the manufacture of non-stick, stain-resistant, and water-proofing coatings on fabric, cookware, firefighting foam, and a variety of other consumer products.
Exposure to the chemicals over time, even in trace amounts, could promote serious health problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which included the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority and 58 other water systems in a PFOS/PFOA warning last May.
Some of the adverse health effects linked to PFOA and PFOS include “developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol changes),” the EPA warned.
The settlement with Daikin, which is estimated to have caused five percent of the river pollution, leaves 3M and subsidiary Dyneon LLC as the remaining defendants. A court date of Oct. 9, 2018, has been set, but a plaintiffs’ lawyer told DecaturDaily.com that 3M may try to delay the case in any way it can, as it did in a similar case in its home state of Minnesota.