Alabama’s environmental chief advises Lawrence County water authority to buy water, avoid overpaying for filtration

LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - The fight for clean drinking water in Lawrence and Morgan Counties continues.

The West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority is suing 3M to pay for a reverse osmosis system.

WMEL officials say this system would filter out all toxic chemicals from the Tennessee River that make their way into the drinking water.

However, WHNT News 19 just found a letter in which the state of Alabama environmental agency says it doesn't think that system is worth the cost, and suggested they use a less effective system to clean the water.

It comes in a response to a letter the WMEL Manager wrote to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) asking for help with toxic manufacturing chemicals found in their drinking water.

The state of Alabama's response?

Get your water from somewhere else.

The state's letter dated  December 4, 2018, signed by ADEM Director Lance LeFleur admits WMEL's current carbon system isn't the most effective filtering system, but  he says it is the most cost-effective.

Read the full letter here: 

WMEL paid for its current carbon filtering system with the $4 million the water authority got from its lawsuit settlement with chemical maker Daikin.

The state agrees the reverse osmosis system WMEL is suing 3M for, is the most effective in cleaning up PFCs chemicals.

A water utility in Brunswick, North Carolina is installing a reverse osmosis system after related chemicals were found in their water.

The price tag?

More than $100 million.

3M is currently allowed dump the toxic chemicals in the Tennessee River, as long as they report it. The director says his agency has no intent to change current discharge permits.

In other states, public officials have researched the chemicals, they've paid for water treatment systems, and they have sued companies who polluted the water.

But in Alabama, ADEM says they do not have the ability to create drinking water standards, instead they use the EPA's health advisory.

Alabama does have a health advisory for the Tennessee River: a warning about eating the fish, but they say you can drink the water.

The attorney general's office says it is ready to meet with WMEL water authority officials regarding its federal lawsuit against 3M.

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