Former trucker says he dumped tons of industrial waste in Lawrence County

TRINITY, Ala. - WHNT News 19 is continuing to uncover details regarding 3M's purchase of Lawrence County land that was used as a dump site for industrial waste decades ago.

"I would've been scratching and clawing away like you are today trying to get something done about it, trying to stop it then before it got out of hand. I mean, it's totally out of control," said John Cottingham.

Cottingham grew up in Lawrence County. He's traveled the country as a truck driver.

"I always come back here, I love Alabama. Alabama is my home," Cottingham explained.

Cottingham's love for Alabama is the reason he says he contacted WHNT News 19. He recently saw our reports about previously undisclosed dump sites in Lawrence County. Cottingham says he used to dump waste on 3M's property on County Road 222. The former truck driver tells us he worked for a subcontractor of 3M.

"I took a lot of loads of stuff right here. I have no idea what it was. I didn't even think about what it was at the time because I was just a kid," said Cottingham.

In February, chemical manufacturing giant 3M sent out a postcard to those who live close to the County Road 222 property. The $120 billion company says industrial waste was dumped on the land in the 1970s and '80s. 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."

According to online records, the people who lived on the property discovered industrial waste on their land 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.

"As far as how many loads is here, I'd be afraid to say. I probably brought 15 or 20 out here myself," explained Cottingham.

Cottingham says he believes the trucks carried 10 to 12 tons of the waste. He says other drivers also dumped loads of waste out to the dump site.

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. ADEM says 3M has not submitted environmental assessment plans to the agency yet.

"I think somebody needs to step in and do something," said Cottingham.

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.

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