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Gov. Bentley – ‘…I am confident that there is no health-related crisis based on the water quality…’

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Low water pressure in Zip City resident's garden hose. (Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After a meeting in Decatur with relevant state agencies regarding the water announcement by the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority, Governor Robert Bentley Friday said he believes there is no health-related crisis based on the water quality of the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority.

“Based on my current understanding, I am confident that there is no health-related crisis based on the water quality of the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “I believe every citizen should have safe water to drink. I have been following the situation concerning the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority very closely. After consultation with the State Health Officer, Dr. Tom Miller, and the Director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Lance LeFleur, it is apparent that a local decision was made which effectively turned an advisory into a regulation. My office, along with ADPH and ADEM were not aware that this decision was being contemplated prior to it being announced.”

According to the State Health Officer, the health advisory previously issued by ADPH is still in effect. Based on information from the EPA, it recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women in affected water systems may consider using alternative sources of drinking water and those with formula fed infants may consider using ready to feed (pre-mixed) formula. The advisory also stated that others in the affected water systems may also consider using alternative sources of drinking water.

“The EPA’s health advisory was based on concern for possible health effects due to exposures to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooactanoic acid (PFOA) over a certain level during a person’s lifetime and not on acute or time-limited exposures,” Dr. Tom Miller said.  “EPA based its decisions on laboratory studies in rats and mice as well as a review of information from groups of people known to have been exposed to PFOS and PFOA in certain areas of the country.”

“The Alabama Department of Environmental Management Agency will continue to work with the water authority to ensure safe quality drinking levels,” ADEM Director Lance LeFleur said. “Through a strong partnership with the Alabama Department of Public Health and federal agencies, we will continue to monitor any potential hazards related to perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water in the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority and other water systems throughout Alabama.”

Governor Bentley added, “Again, based on my current understanding, I am confident that there is no health-related crisis based on the water quality of the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority.”

Carl Cole, the attorney for West Morgan East Lawrence and its customers in the class action lawsuit against 3M and others, issued this statement in response:

“The water authority did not use the terms emergency or crisis.  The water authority simply informed its customers of the very serious concerns over water quality that will exist over the next 3-4 months until the new treatment system is in place.

I doubt very seriously that Gov. Bentley has read the EPA advisories issued on May 19.  They total over 200 pages and I understand he’s had his hands full with other matters.

We would encourage Gov. Bentley to look at the actions of other state governments that have been dealing with this issue much longer than Alabama.  Minnesota, the home state of 3M has sued 3M for the contamination of Minnesota’s natural resources due to these same chemicals.

In the last four and a half months, the E.P.A. has received letters demanding action on PFOA from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and from the three governors and six senators of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire, all states dealing with their own PFOA crises. Chris Gibson, a Republican congressmen from upstate New York, requested a congressional investigation after high levels of PFOA were found in the drinking water of Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

These are the actions of responsible leaders.

Gov. Bentley could look no further than his own department of public health, which placed a warning to people not to consume more than one fish a month from certain areas of the Tennessee River because of these very same chemicals. However, he appears to be saying citizens can drink as much of the chemicals as they want.  This is a dramatic contradiction from our state government.  The water is not safe to drink for the same reasons the state government has said the fish are not safe to eat.”