Alabama is tied with New Hampshire for having the second-highest number of drinking water sites contaminated by the toxic chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooactanoic acid (PFOA). Five sites reported levels that exceed the EPA’s lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.
The EPA has warned that exposure to elevated levels of these perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) can lead to a number of health problems including testicular cancer, kidney cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertensions.
Decatur is the location of one of these contamination sites. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against 3M, Dyneon, and Daikin America, which have plants located just upriver of water systems that supply residents in Decatur and the surrounding areas. The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority agreed to a $5 million settlement with Daikin, which will aid in the purchase of a permanent filtration system capable of removing PFCs.
The Tennessee River Keepers also sued these companies and other defendants for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The RCRA allows a citizen to file suit against polluters, transporters, or owners of treatment facilities to abate an imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment.
The other four contamination sites are located in Gadsden and Centre, which utilize the Coosa River for drinking water. Beasley Allen filed lawsuits on behalf of their respective water systems against carpet manufacturers and chemical suppliers located upriver in Dalton, Georgia. The carpet industry uses PFCs to impart water, stain, and grease resistance to its carpet and other textile products. These chemicals resist degradation during processing at Dalton Utilities’ wastewater treatment plant and ultimately contaminated the Coosa River.
The Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Gadsden’s case was recently remanded back to Etowah County where discovery is underway. The Water Works and Sewer Board of the Town of Centre’s case has been removed to federal court in the Northern District of Alabama while its Motion to Remand is under consideration. These water systems are working with the authorities to monitor for PFOS and PFOA in their water.
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Lawyers in Beasley Allen’s Toxic Torts section are working on claims of water contamination related to PFCs in water systems throughout the country. For more information on this type of litigation, contact Ryan Kral at Ryan.Kral@beasleyallen.com.