LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - As we’ve been reporting, residents in Lawrence County have been searching for help after learning there have been potentially harmful manufacturing chemicals in their drinking water for years.
We traveled to Minnesota to better understand how that state addressed the problems with the same chemicals in its drinking water and the same maker of those chemicals, 3M.
3M has a plant in Decatur that produced the chemicals for years. While Minnesota sued 3M and won an $850 million settlement, Alabama officials have stayed on the sidelines.
But that could be changing.
A spokesman for Attorney General Steve Marshall's office said Friday they prefer not to comment on what actions they could take, but they are continuing to evaluate possible legal options.
Marshall suggested the state of Alabama could file a lawsuit under a public nuisance claim.
Meanwhile, 3M is currently in litigation with the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority. On Friday the team of attorneys representing the water authority expressed optimism that they were making progress.
Attorneys Carl Cole and Jeff Friedman sent us the following statement Friday afternoon:
“There is no doubt the pollutants in the Tennessee River are a serious concern that is not going away. We have worked for five (5) years to represent the Water Authority and to bring about a result that will guarantee a permanent solution to the water crisis. The Authority is implementing the construction of a water treatment facility that will provide the cleanest drinking water available and meet the strictest standards in America. The citizens of Lawrence and Morgan Counties deserve no less, and the parties that caused the pollution must fully pay for the remedy. It will happen.
"We have personally spent weeks in Minnesota in 3M depositions, we have reviewed millions of documents, our team consulted with the lawyers in Washington, D.C., that represented the State of Minnesota against 3M, and we are also in contact with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. In due course, announcements will come but do not mistake silence for lack of progress. We feel better about our situation today than at any other time over the past five (5) years.”