Green Guide

3M water pollution case set for early 2019 trial date

Posted July 16

— A federal lawsuit involving chemical contamination in the Tennessee River near a city in Alabama will go to trial in 2019.

Al.com reports that Judge Abdul K. Kallon scheduled a pretrial conference for Jan. 23, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. A non-jury trial to begin March 4, 2019 at the federal courthouse in Huntsville.

Tennessee Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit alleges synthetic chemicals manufactured by 3M at its plant in Decatur have been entering the Tennessee River for decades. The environmental group also alleges that chemicals pose a threat to human health and the environment.

"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 the River," said David Whiteside, Tennessee Riverkeeper's Founder and Executive Director.

Monetary damages are not being sought in the suit from 3M or other defendants in the case. The suit does ask the courts to compel 3M to clean up landfills and other disposal facilities that the Riverkeeper group says is still releasing perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctyl sulfonate into the Tennessee River, which is a source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians.

3M has argued that the substances are not harmful at levels typically found in the environment. Company officials say it is in compliance with regulations from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

"3M has always operated in compliance with its legal and regulatory obligations," said William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel for 3M. "The company voluntarily ceased the manufacture and use of these chemistries well over a decade ago. Since that time, 3M has worked in close collaboration with state regulators to address the environmental presence of these compounds.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory in 2016 that the substances could be harmful to humans at lower concentrations than previously believed.

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