Decatur, Morgan County move to shift liability for contaminated water to 3M, maybe more

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DECATUR, Ala. – Through a flurry of motions, the City of Decatur and Morgan County want to shift any liability over contaminated water to, at the very least, 3M, who produced the chemicals in question, if not other chemical companies named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit started in 2002 over perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) working their way into the environment from the chemical companies that used them in the creation of Teflon along with other chemical processes.

The same chemicals eventually would lead the West Morgan-East Lawrence to declare their water unsafe to drink. Exposure to PFCs comes with a long list of possible health consequences. However, the lawsuit predates the chemicals being identified as a threat to the public drinking water.

The City of Decatur and Morgan County were brought into the lawsuit in 2015, for a variety of reasons including a landfill that continues to contaminate water with PFCs and toxic sludge that was spread over fields by Decatur Utilities contractors for years. All parties were forced into mediation last fall, which is where the case has remained.

Now, the City of Decatur and Morgan County say if they are found liable for damages, they will attempt to make, at very least, 3M cover the costs. The attorney handling the case for the governments says taxpayers should not be held accountable for the conduct of companies. He notes that the governments never produced the chemical.

The plaintiffs in the case filed their own motion, saying they didn’t mind Decatur and Morgan County being allowed to take that approach.

“We agree that the stay should be lifted given that mediation has proven unsuccessful,” says William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel to 3M. “However, we believe the stay should be lifted in its entirety, so that all parties can move forward with the litigation that has been pending since 2002. We wholeheartedly believe that plaintiffs’ claims lack merit.”