Published report: DU discharges chemicals that caused drinking water advisory

Published: Jun. 13, 2016 at 8:49 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2016 at 5:21 AM CDT
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DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority may soon issue an all-clear for its drinking supply. A process to dilute dangerous chemicals using water from Decatur Utilities has been underway for several days.

Meanwhile, a published report indicates Decatur Utilities actually discharges those same chemicals into the Tennessee River. The WMEL Water Authority is suing 3M and other companies for allegedly dumping perfluorinated compounds, or PFC's, into the water source.

WAFF 48's news partner, the Decatur Daily, reports the concentration of PFC's Decatur Utilities puts back into the river is far higher than what is considered to be safe for drinking water.

To be clear, that is not in the water DU customers get. The Dry Creek Wastewater Plant next to Ingalls Harbor is about 16 miles upstream from the West Morgan facility.

The Decatur Daily obtained DU's reports that put the levels of the chemicals in the treated wastewater at more than 17,000 times higher than the safe level for drinking water. DU tells WAFF 48 News that math is way off and it is 17 times higher.

The Decatur Daily report indicates DU's prime source of the chemicals is liquid waste from the Morgan County Regional Landfill, with a PFC concentration 2.3 million times the safe limit. DU again tells WAFF 48 News the numbers are not right and that it is 23,000 over the EPA limit for drinking water.

In addition, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management allows DU to take the sludge containing the chemicals they have filtered from the treated water back to the landfill. Discharging PFC's is not regulated by the state or the EPA.

DU released the following statement about working to reduce the chemicals, while not commenting specifically on issues related to litigation in which DU is a plaintiff:

The City of Decatur, which includes Decatur Utilities, and Morgan County were named last year as defendants in a lawsuit originally filed in 2002 against 3M and other companies who generated PFOA's and PFOS's (collectively referred to as PFC's).  The City of Decatur and Morgan County jointly own the Morgan County Regional Landfill and the City of Decatur, through Decatur Utilities, operates the Decatur Wastewater Treatment Plant.  PFC's were discharged by companies who generated those chemicals into Decatur's sewer system and also sludge containing those chemicals was deposited in the landfill.

The EPA and ADEM have not established any regulations which would prohibit the discharge of PFC's to or from a wastewater treatment plant.  Nonetheless, the City of Decatur and Morgan County have been studying processes that would reduce the levels of PFC's being discharged from the Landfill and from the Wastewater Treatment Plant.

In the above lawsuit the City of Decatur and Morgan County have asserted that the companies who generated PFC's which were discharged into Decatur Utilities sewer system and placed in the landfill must be responsible for any expenses incurred by Decatur Utilities and the Landfill to reduce the levels of PFC's discharged.  The City of Decatur and Morgan County firmly believe that any costs and expenses that may be incurred to reduce the levels of PFC's should not be paid for by the customers of the Landfill or the City's sewer system.

Decatur Utilities once again wants to assure its water customers that all recent tests of its drinking water show no detectable levels of PFC's and Decatur's water supply is fully in compliance with all EPA and ADEM regulations.

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