DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - Environmental advocates say there are dangerously high levels of chemicals flowing into the Tennessee River.
The Tennessee Riverkeeper issued findings of water samples in March flowing out of the closed Mud Tavern landfill into Mud Tavern Creek along Old Moulton Road southwest of Decatur.
The report says the combined levels of PFOS and PFOA as high as 51,000 parts-per-trillion (ng/L) in May and 49,000 parts-per-trillion in March 2020.
The Environmental Protection Agency states 70 parts-per-trillion and below is considered safe for drinking water.
“These are alarming levels of PFAS chemicals. They are among the highest we have seen in surface water in North Alabama. These PFAS pollution results show the need for extensive sampling across Morgan County and Lawrence County, completely independent from any of the defendants,” said David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper.
Tennessee Riverkeeper says it appears that a large sinkhole at the top of the ridge was used as a dump site for years and then covered over with dirt. They said there is also a buried stream that flows into the landfill from the north and emerges on the south side from a pipe into a polluted stream that continues to disperse PFAS chemicals.
Decatur Utilities issued a statement in response to Tennessee Riverkeeper’s report: “While storm water runoff from this landfill makes its way via Flint Creek into the Tennessee River upstream of the DU Water Treatment Plant, it is highly diluted by other water within the watershed as well as the hundreds of millions of gallons of water in the Wheeler Basin Reservoir before entering the plant’s intake. Thus, the levels of PFCs in tests of DU’s water supply have consistently been less than 5 PPT, which is near minimum detection levels and well below the EPA’s advisory limit of 70 PPT for lifetime exposure.”
Decatur Utilities spokesman Joe Holmes says they are aware of and are monitoring 3M to evaluate and remediate the groundwater leachate coming from the old city landfill near Mud Tavern Creek. Holmes said this matter is currently in litigation and is under an order of mediation that requires confidentiality from all the parties, but they are not aware of any settlement.