A federal judge has denied motions to dismiss filed by 3M Company, BFI Waste Systems of Alabama, and the city of Decatur, Alabama regarding pollution from PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) in the Wheeler Reservoir of the Tennessee River. Tennessee Riverkeeper’s lawsuit alleges the defendants have been discharging hazardous and solid waste containing chemicals that do not break down easily and that are linked to cancer into the Tennessee River. The pollution is located around Decatur, Alabama, near one of 3M’s largest chemical manufacturing plants. The court denied all three motions and allowed Tennessee Riverkeeper’s case to proceed. Any issues not decided must wait until the summary judgment phase of the litigation. The parties have until February 24, 2017 to meet to schedule further proceedings.

David Whiteside, Founder and Executive Director of Tennessee Riverkeeper, stated: “Tennessee Riverkeeper members are both this River’s users and guardians,” Whiteside said. “After nearly five decades of 3M’s pollution of the Tennessee River, where no one has held the defendants accountable, Riverkeeper needed to act to protect this precious resource and all the wildlife and restore justice to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely upon her waters everyday.”

“We don’t mind 3M making profitable products – but, we cannot tolerate the defendants putting profit ahead of the health of people, the environment, and our water,” David Whiteside, Tennessee Riverkeeper’s Founder and Executive Director, said.

The toxins – components or byproducts of 3M’s manufacture of its profitable lines of “non-stick” products like Scotchgard and Stainmaster – have polluted the Tennessee River’s Wheeler Reservoir, a popular recreation destination and home to various important wildlife species and ecosystems. As even minimal exposure to PFOS and PFOA is linked to a grim variety of health hazards, there exist virtually no safe levels of the chemicals in the environment.  Research strongly indicates PFOA and PFOS are potent carcinogens, and they have also been tied to birth defects and adverse effects on childhood development, significantly decreased immune system function, liver tissue damage and a host of other serious health problems.  Consequently, in a May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS of only 0.07 parts per billion.  However, PFOA and PFOS levels in the Tennessee River near the 3M site are, respectively, more than 70,000 and 50,000 times higher than the EPA’s safety advisory.

The toxins – components or byproducts of 3M’s manufacture of its profitable lines of “non-stick” products like Scotchgard and Stainmaster – have polluted the Tennessee River’s Wheeler Reservoir, a popular recreation destination and home to various important wildlife species and ecosystems. As even minimal exposure to PFOS and PFOA is linked to a grim variety of health hazards, there exist virtually no safe levels of the chemicals in the environment.  Research strongly indicates PFOA and PFOS are potent carcinogens, and they have also been tied to birth defects and adverse effects on childhood development, significantly decreased immune system function, liver tissue damage and a host of other serious health problems.  Consequently, in a May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS of only 0.07 parts per billion.  However, PFOA and PFOS levels in the Tennessee River near the 3M site are, respectively, more than 70,000 and 50,000 times higher than the EPA’s safety advisory.

As even minimal exposure to PFOS and PFOA is linked to a grim variety of health hazards, there exist virtually no safe levels of the chemicals in the environment.  Research strongly indicates PFOA and PFOS are potent carcinogens, and they have also been tied to birth defects and adverse effects on childhood development, significantly decreased immune system function, liver tissue damage and a host of other serious health problems.  Consequently, in a May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Drinking Water Health Advisories for PFOA and PFOS of only 0.07 parts per billion.  However, PFOA and PFOS levels in the Tennessee River near the 3M site are, respectively, more than 70,000 and 50,000 times higher than the EPA’s safety advisory.

“Some PFCs can ‘bioaccumulate,’ which occurs when an organism absorbs a toxic substance at a greater rate than the toxin is purged from the body.  Studies show that PFCs can also biomagnify as they move up to higher trophic levels of the food chain.  Even low concentrations of the chemicals in the water of the Tennessee River can translate to high concentrations in the fish, especially our bass and catfish.  Many citizens of North Alabama eat these fish from the Tennessee River,” David Whiteside stated.         Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. added, “The rights to clean air and water and to a safe secure environment are fundamental civil rights and as with all pollution, the injuries from 3M’s pollution land hardest on the backs of Alabama’s poor and minority communities.’” 3M has produced PFOS at its Decatur plant since the early 1960s, and PFOA at the site since 1999.  On-site disposal practices have resulted in groundwater contamination and the contamination of the Wheeler Reservoir of the Tennessee River.  3M has also transported waste off-site to nearby landfills.  The largest volume has been delivered to the City of Decatur-Morgan County Sanitary Landfill, owned by

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. added, “The rights to clean air and water and to a safe secure environment are fundamental civil rights and as with all pollution, the injuries from 3M’s pollution land hardest on the backs of Alabama’s poor and minority communities.’” 3M has produced PFOS at its Decatur plant since the early 1960s, and PFOA at the site since 1999.  On-site disposal practices have resulted in groundwater contamination and the contamination of the Wheeler Reservoir of the Tennessee River.  3M has also transported waste off-site to nearby landfills.  The largest volume has been delivered to the City of Decatur-Morgan County Sanitary Landfill, owned by

3M has produced PFOS at its Decatur plant since the early 1960s, and PFOA at the site since 1999.  On-site disposal practices have resulted in groundwater contamination and the contamination of the Wheeler Reservoir of the Tennessee River.  3M has also transported waste off-site to nearby landfills.  The largest volume has been delivered to the City of Decatur-Morgan County Sanitary Landfill, owned by co-defendant City of Decatur.  Waste was also transported to landfills owned and/or operated by other defendants, like the A.J. Morris Landfill (Morris Farms Landfill), in Hillsboro, Alabama, owned by BFI Waste Systems of Alabama, LLC.  Finally, waste was also received by the now closed Bert Jeffries Landfill (also called the Browns Ferry Road Site), which is now owned by 3M.  These landfills all have high levels of groundwater contamination from PFOA, PFOS, and related chemicals.  The chemicals are also found at high levels in the liquid waste, called leachate, collected from Morris Farms and the Decatur-Morgan County landfills.  The collected leachate from both landfills is sent to the Dry Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP), owned by Decatur Utilities.  It The plant has inadequate treatment capabilities for these chemicals and, therefore, discharges harmful amounts into the Tennessee River. Tennessee Riverkeeper’s RCRA lawsuit seeks to compel the immediate, thorough, and verifiable cleanup of all of these areas.  Riverkeeper demands that 3M dramatically increase its efforts to remediate its on-site groundwater contamination, that groundwater at the landfill sites be mitigated, that leachate from the two landfills that collect leachate be treated before discharge to the Dry Creek WWTP, and that the WWTP treat its discharge to remove these chemicals before discharge to the Tennessee River. Riverkeeper further asks that 3M be held responsible for the required remediation at the off-site facilities. ! “Tennessee Riverkeeper is pleased with the order and look forward to proceeding with the case,”  David Whiteside concluded.

Tennessee Riverkeeper’s RCRA lawsuit seeks to compel the immediate, thorough, and verifiable cleanup of all of these areas.  Riverkeeper demands that 3M dramatically increase its efforts to remediate its on-site groundwater contamination, that groundwater at the landfill sites be mitigated, that leachate from the two landfills that collect leachate be treated before discharge to the Dry Creek WWTP, and that the WWTP treat its discharge to remove these chemicals before discharge to the Tennessee River. Riverkeeper further asks that 3M be held responsible for the required remediation at the off-site facilities. “Tennessee Riverkeeper is pleased with the order and look forward to proceeding with the case,”  David Whiteside concluded.

“Tennessee Riverkeeper is pleased with the order and look forward to proceeding with the case,”  David Whiteside concluded.