Decatur and 3M named in contamination lawsuit - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Decatur and 3M named in contamination lawsuit


An environmental group that declared intent to file a lawsuit over high levels of potentially dangerous chemical compounds found in the water near the Decatur area has filed a federal lawsuit.

Tennessee Riverkeeper submitted the complaint Thursday afternoon. It names 3M Company, BFI Waste Systems of Alabama, the City of Decatur and Decatur Utilities as defendants.

The civil complaint claims 3M had made or used PFOA and PFOS at its facility in Decatur.

The chemicals are potential health hazardous if found at high levels. There’s also concern that the chemicals can cause cancers and other health risks. According to the complaint, 3M, and its co-Defendants discharged countless tons of the toxins into the Tennessee River and have done little to clean up the contamination. 

BFI Waste Systems of Alabama owns and operates the BFI Morris Farms Landfill located on County Road 418 in Hillsboro, Alabama.

The lawsuit claims the landfill accepted quote:

Sludge contaminated with PFOA, PFOS and related chemicals from 3M’s Decatur facility. As a result, PFOA, PFOS, and related chemicals are present in the Morris Farms Landfill, resulting in groundwater contamination and the generation of contaminated leachate.This leachate is sent to Dry Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant, owned and operated by Defendant Decatur Utilities, which discharges wastewater containing PFOA, PFOS and related chemicals to the Tennessee River.

We’ve reached out to BFI Waste Systems for a comment. A spokesperson told us they are discussion this internally and hope to get back to us at a later time.

Decatur city attorney Herman Marks, Jr. said the City’s practice is to review any lawsuit and respond to it appropriately.

To the best of my knowledge the City of Decatur has not been served,” said Marks. “It would be best if we could see the lawsuit first."

The civil complaint states the City of Decatur owns and operates the Morgan County Landfill that spent years accepting the majority of industrial waste from 3M’s Decatur facility. The suit then goes on to state that PFOA and PFOS and are now present in the Morgan County Landfill and have resulted in groundwater contamination.

A Decatur Utilities spokesperson said they have also not been served with the suit and won’t be speaking publicly about it at this time.

According to the court documents, the utility company owns and operated the Dry Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant which continues to receive wastewater from 3M’s Decatur facility.

And the Dry Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant does not remove the hazardous chemicals from the water stream and discharges them into the Tennessee River.

The suit also indicates the Dry Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant also disposes of its sludge that is contaminated with the hazardous chemicals into the Morgan County Landfill. The suit goes on to state that PFOA, PFOS and related chemicals were applied to fields in Lawrence, Morgan and Limestone Counties. The suit alleges chemicals have contaminated the soil, surface water and groundwater at and near those fields.

We’ve reached out to 3M’s attorney and are waiting to hear back.

“After nearly five decades of 3M’s pollution of the Tennessee River, where no one has held the defendants accountable, we felt we needed to act to protect this precious resource and all the wildlife and restore justice to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on her water every day,” said Tennessee Riverkeeper Founder and Executive Director David Whiteside.

Tennessee Riverkeeper is asking the court to do several things including to issue an injunction that will require the Defendants to stop “their ongoing disposal of PFOA, PFOS and related chemicals that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment and to clean up the groundwater contamination.

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