TRINITY, Ala. - 3M is buying up land in Lawrence County and residents are worried about what it means for their health. The properties contain decades-old industrial waste and it doesn't appear the state of Alabama is doing much about it.
"I'm not very happy about this," says Peter Harding.
Harding has lived off County Road 222 in Lawrence County for 20 years.
"I came home one night and found my neighbors were moving in the middle of the night and I was unaware why they were doing that," explained Harding.
According to online records, those neighbors found industrial waste on their property in 2017. 3M bought the land from them for $549,900 in August 2018. Lawrence County assessment records indicate the price 3M paid for the land is $333,000 higher than the assessed value of the 11-acre property.
In February residents who live nearby received a postcard from 3M briefly explaining what was happening on the County Road 222 property. 3M told residents the property was an undisclosed dump site and that industrial waste from the 1970s and '80s was disposed of on the property. The postcard also said 3M plans to investigate the site and do remediation work as necessary. The company indicated it intended to ensure the property is "maintained in a safe condition and managed appropriately."
3M is currently being sued by the West Morgan-East Lawrence water authority over industrial chemicals the company discharged into the Tennessee River for decades. The chemicals were found in the authority's drinking water in 2016 at levels the EPA considers unhealthy.
The notification from 3M about the property yards away from his home raised questions for Harding.
"That tells you people knew it was here," Harding said. "Somebody knew it was here. Someone got paid to put that here. Did they get paid, not only to put it here but to keep it quiet? It makes you wonder where else is it? Who else is sitting on it?"
The County Road 222 property isn't the only piece of land 3M bought in Lawrence County in 2018. 3M also purchased a 20-acre property on County Road 358. The company bought the property for $167,000 in August 2018. Assessment records show the price 3M paid for it was $62,320 more than the assessed value.
Neighbors who live around the properties are frustrated that no one from the State of Alabama has contacted them.
"What effect does this have on me and my family? Apparently, it seems like nobody is concerned about that," said Harding.
WHNT News 19 reached out to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) about what the agency was doing with the undisclosed dump sites. A spokesperson for ADEM said the agency is aware of the properties 3M bought. The spokesperson said 3M is conducting environmental assessments on the properties. The company is supposed to keep ADEM apprised of what they find on the properties, the ADEM spokesperson said.
3M underreported to ADEM its discharge of chemicals into the Tennessee River from late 2012 to mid-2016.
A 3M spokesperson tells WHNT News 19 the company is working with ADEM to investigate the Lawrence County properties. The spokesperson said the company is working with an "external party" to sample and test the land. 3M intends to remediate the site and contact any other companies who may have dumped waste on those properties. The company spokesperson said 3M is not sure how long the site investigations will take.