3M expanding chemical testing to 3 Morgan County landfills

Published: Jul. 8, 2019 at 6:16 PM CDT
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DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - Decatur’s 3M plant went public on Monday to acknowledge the potential presence of toxic chemicals in three former Morgan County landfills.

This new investigation comes just weeks after the company revealed it had been releasing different toxic chemicals into the river, against EPA guidelines.

According to 3M’s spokesperson, for the last several months, the company has been searching through landfills and testing for PFAS chemicals. Now this investigation is expanding.

Per the request of the city of Decatur and other Morgan County officials, 3M will be testing three former Decatur landfills for PFOA and PFOS chemicals. Those landfills include Brookhaven, Deer Springs and Old Moulton Road/Mud Tavern.

The city released the following statement:

"The City of Decatur and Morgan County officials are committed to keeping our citizens and environment safe. As a part of our on-going efforts to identify and, if needed, implement changes to areas that may impact safety, we recently requested that 3M investigate and evaluate the potential presence of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) in three landfills that are no longer in use. 3M has operated in Decatur since the early 1960s and manufactured PFOS and PFOA.

As a result of the request from city and county officials, company leaders are working with them and government regulatory agencies to investigate and address any issues related to PFAS at the three former landfills at Brookhaven, Deer Springs, and Old Moulton Road/Mud Tavern.

Officials with the City of Decatur and Morgan County also expect to announce soon a plan of action to address the presence of these chemicals in the current Decatur-Morgan County Landfill.

The City and County consulted with State Health Officer Scott Harris, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, with the Alabama Department of Public Health who issued this statement with respect to potential exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). ADPH has not received any reports of any health hazards associated with people at Brookhaven or the Aquadome,” stated Harris. He continued, "Swallowing or dermal contact with PFAS-containing surface water through recreational activities (swimming, water sports, etc.) are not expected to cause harm to human health. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), dermal exposure is slow and does not result in significant absorption of PFAS. ATSDR has observed, ‘Studies have shown that only a small amount of PFAS can get into your body through your skin; therefore, showering and bathing in water containing PFAS should not increase exposure. Washing dishes in water containing PFAS should not increase exposure.’ The Alabama Department of Public Health continues to monitor updates from the Environmental Protection Agency and ATSDR and makes recommendations based on new information as it becomes available."

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling stated, ‘I understand that Decatur citizens want to know what all of this means to them. Most importantly, Decatur’s water is completely safe. Customers can reference DU’s statement regarding water quality on the DU website at www.decaturutilities.com/water for more information. We will continue to use advances in technology and knowledge to identify ways to improve our community in order to keep our citizens safe.’"

Decatur Utilities released the following statement:

"Decatur Utilities (DU) has been made aware of an investigative effort by 3M to determine the level of Perfluorinated compounds, specifically PFOA and PFOS, which may be present at three former landfill sites in Morgan County.

DU wishes to remind all Decatur residents that their DU drinking water is completely safe and meets or exceeds all state and federal regulatory standards. Tests for these chemicals in our water supply have been non-detect, or at near non-detectable levels. The highest value in any recent test was less than 5 parts per trillion combined level for both chemicals, which is near the minimum detection levels.

For reference, one part per trillion is the equivalent of one square inch in 250 square miles OR one second in nearly 32,000 years OR one ounce in 7.5 billion gallons of water. As a reminder, while not a regulatory limit, the EPA health advisory for lifetime consumption was established at 70 parts per trillion. All compounds in this family of chemicals continue to be studied by EPA; however, they are all currently unregulated.

Customers of DU can rest assured that the City of Decatur's drinking water is safe and continues to be recognized for outstanding quality. DU's Water Treatment Plant has been recognized as optimized by the Drinking Water Branch of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) Safe Drinking Water Program for five consecutive years. This means DU has reached a level of performance that exceeds the requirements established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

DU takes great pride in the quality of water provided to our retail and resale customers and we want to ensure all customers can have great confidence in its safety.

A copy of DU’s current and past Water Quality Reports are available on the DU website at www.decaturutilities.com/water. If you have any questions regarding your water quality, please don’t hesitate to call us at 256-552-1400."

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