Alexander wants legal action

posted on:
August 12, 2009

author:
Brette Martin Burnes

category:
Environmental

Moulton Mayor Ray Alexander said he was looking out for the best interests of the citizens of Moulton and Lawrence County when he retained legal representation regarding chemical contamination by Decatur Utilities and Decatur industries.

The high-profile Montgomery law firm Beasley Allen will represent Moulton’s interests in the ongoing contamination debacle. Alexander said he retained the firm about three weeks ago.

“I want the people who contaminated us to know that we’re not pleased with them doing this, and we’re expecting somebody to pay for cleaning it up,” Alexander stated.

Although no legal action has been taken, the mayor said that a lawsuit is a definite possibility. He named DU, the Morgan County Landfill and Synagro South, as well as 3M, Diakin America and Toray Fluorofibers as possible defendants if action is taken.

“I think Beasley Allen will file a class action lawsuit against these folks, but I don’t know that for sure,” Alexander said.

These industries used perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, in their manufacturing processes. DU’s wastewater treatment process doesn’t remove the PFCs, which remained in the sludge, or biosolid residue, resulting from treatment.

To dispose of the sludge, DU joined with Synagro to spread the sludge as free fertilizer on various Lawrence and Morgan County farms.

Once concerns were raised about possible contamination, DU began sending the sludge to the Morgan County Landfill. However, when the landfill’s leachate, or leach water, became contaminated as a result, DU refused to accept it at the treatment plant. At that point, the Morgan landfill then refused to accept any more sludge.

DU then sent the sludge to the Morris Farm Landfill near Hillsboro, which in turn sent its leachate to the Moulton wastewater treatment plant. Moulton receives $10,000 per month to accept Morris Farm Landfill’s leachate.

Like DU’s, Moulton’s plant is not equipped to remove the cancer-causing chemicals. The effluent discharged from the Moulton treatment plant empties into Crow Branch, which according to studies conducted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency, is now highly contaminated by the PFCs.

Alexander said when he first learned of the contamination several months ago, he stopped accepting the leachate from the Morris landfill. However, after only one day, ADEM told Alexander to resume acceptance because the contamination already had occurred.

“We shouldn’t have been involved in any of this,” Alexander said of Moulton and Lawrence County. “If ADEM and the EPA had been doing their job and been on top of this, then we wouldn’t have been contaminated.

“A lot of folks have liability in this,” the mayor continued. “In the process of contaminating us, nobody bothered to let us know.

“If they had done that,” he added, “we wouldn’t be contaminated, but we are now, and we’re going to see how we can correct it.”

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