Georgia carpet manufacturers at the center of two major Alabama water contamination complaints argued before the Alabama Supreme Court that the lawsuits should be tried in Georgia.
Beasley Allen attorney Rhon Jones, who is representing the water and sewer boards for the Alabama cities of Centre and Gadsden, told Georgia’s high court last week that Dalton, Georgia’s carpet industry, where 90% of the world’s carpet is manufactured, allowed the release of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) into nearby water sources.
The chemicals ran into the Coosa River and were carried to Alabama, where they contaminated drinking water for communities about 100 miles downstream from the carpet manufacturing operations.
PFCs are a group of synthetic chemical compounds that manufacturers use on fabric, cookware, firefighting foam, and a variety of other consumer products to make them non-stick and waterproof. Carpet manufacturers in Dalton treat carpet with PFCs to make them stain resistant.
Once released into the environment, PFCs do not break down. The chemicals not only pose a tremendous threat to the environment and wildlife, they also are known to cause serious health problems in humans. People exposed to PFCs in drinking water or food may develop cancer, problems with liver, kidneys, pancreas, and thyroid problems. PFCs can also have adverse developmental effects on fetuses and infants, even in trace amounts.
According to Courthouse News Service, attorneys representing Mohawk Industries, Shaw Industries, and other carpet manufacturers alleged that trial courts in two Alabama counties improperly denied motions to dismiss the cases. They also contended that the cases should be tried in a Georgia court because that is where the alleged harm occurred.
The carpet manufacturers’ lawyers blamed Dalton Utilities for not filtering out their industrial waste from wastewater before returning it to the environment and argued the utility is subject to Georgia’s state regulations.
Mr. Jones refuted that argument, saying “It’s crystal clear in Alabama: Personal jurisdiction is based on the unique facts of the case.” He said that the carpet manufacturers knew or should have known that Dalton Utilities’ filtration would not have removed PFCs from the water.
“Jones described the river as a conveyor belt, which carried the chemicals to Alabama, and he said the case should be heard in an Alabama courtroom to fulfill the principles of fair play and substantial justice,” according to Courthouse News Service.
“If you’re putting in a substance as toxic and persistent as PFCs, it’s going downstream,” Mr. Jones said. “That’s just common sense.”