DECATUR, Ala. - A packed room and people standing outside. That's how crowded it was at the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority Thursday morning. The board of directors held their monthly meeting. Those folks wanted answers and so did we.
The overflow crowd inside meant the only way a lot of people could hear what was happening was to gather around our satellite truck parked outside, and many of them were willing to share their concerns.
“There has not been a discussion of the impact upon people,” says Richard Dickerson, who describes himself as a former appointee to the Environmental Protection Agency now working with a grassroots group of water customers concerned about the adverse health effects of drinking PFOA and PFOS tainted water. He added, “This is a working poor community. There's a large number of people here who are Native Americans. There's a large number of people who are shut ins. Their water rates have increased but they're also having to buy bottled water. So they're paying twice for water."
Jonathon Sparks walked up and told us, "I came home in 2006 from Florida and I’ve been sick ever since."
Others were much more concerned about the health effects of drinking the contaminated water. They drank it for years before anyone knew it was unsafe.
Beth McCarley has been active in trying to help arrange free bottled water for residents. She says, "If the water is not safe for one group of people, it's not safe for anybody. So where is our help?"
“There's an enormous anxiety here behind this water and there are a lot of people here who are sick. There are people here who will die before this reaches it's conclusion,” Dickerson said.
By the end meeting it became clear those wanting cheaper water and those wanting safer water both have a long way to go.
During the meeting, board member Mark Clark made a motion to fire the board's attorney and call for the resignation of General Manager Don Sims. His motion died for lack of a second.