Water authority: 3M settlement ‘a momentous day for the community’

LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority confirmed Friday it is working with 3M on a settlement that will get a new water filtration system for the community.

"This is a momentous day for the community," said WMEL assistant general manager Jeaniece Slater. "The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority is proud to announce that we will now be able to put in a permanent advanced filtration system and it won't cost our customers any extra money. After about three years, we're excited to get this behind us and move forward. We are grateful for the opportunity to have a solution for current and future customers."

The water authority sued 3M to pay for advanced filtration system after perfluorinated chemicals were found in their water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency lowered its guidance on levels of perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water in May 2016.

The PFC compounds found in the WMEL water supply are PFOA and PFOS, which are used in manufacturing products like Teflon and Scotchgard. 3M produced PFOA and PFOS at its plant in Decatur, about 10 miles upstream from WMEL’s water treatment plant.

After the EPA lowered its guidelines, the water authority told its customers not to drink the water, and a temporary filtration system was built.

3M confirmed Thursday that it was working on a settlement with the water authority but did not disclose any details. The filtration system the water authority plans to build could cost as much as $43 million, according to information submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

An attorney for the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority said both sides would issue a joint press release in the near future. WHNT News 19 has filed a public records request with the water authority for the details of the settlement agreement.

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