Residents of a North Alabama county say they are being poisoned by perfluorinated chemicals 3M dumped into the Tennessee River over the course of several years and claim Alabama’s leaders have turned a blind eye to an environmental disaster affecting their homes and families.
In May 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a health advisory warning the public about the presence of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS) in 59 water systems nationwide, including eight in Alabama.
PFOA and PFOS were used by 3M in its Decatur, Alabama, plant to make non-stick, stain-resistant, and water-proofing coatings for consumer products. Whatever PFOA and PFOS 3M had left over, it would dump directly into the Tennessee River.
The Tennessee River serves as a source of tap water for hundreds of thousands of people, including residents served by the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority.
After the EPA issued its warning, the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority warned its customers to avoid drinking the water for which they were paying.
PFOA and PFOS can cause a myriad of health problems, including kidney cancer, bladder cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, developmental effects on fetuses, and immune system impairments, just to name a few.
Lawrence County residents say they and their loved ones and neighbors are grappling with serious, sometimes debilitating medical conditions that they blame on the contaminated water the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority unwittingly provided.
Among the sickened residents interviewed by Huntsville, Alabama’s WHNT 19 News, is former University of Alabama linebacker Ernest Nance, who is bedridden with kidney problems, skin lesions, and a spectrum of other ailments he blames on the water.
Hundreds of people affected by the widespread PFOA and PFOS are suing 3M and other manufacturers who made or used the chemicals, including Daikan. The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority recently settled its own lawsuit against Daikan for $4 million, which allowed it to install a temporary water filtration system to remove PFOA and PFOS from the water. 3M has not settled with the water authority.
According to WHNT, the State of Alabama “has an agreement with 3M to try and clean up chemicals at the plant site, but there is no state limit on how much of the chemicals the company can discharge from the plant into the Tennessee River.”
According to WHNT, other states impacted by 3M’s PFOA and PFOS pollution have “stood up for their people,” including Minnesota, which settled with 3M for $850 million, and Michigan, where the governor has urged the attorney general to sue 3M.