Environmental group concerned about illegal chemical release into Tennessee River

DECATUR, Ala.- A local environmental group is concerned after learning the 3M plant failed to obey federal law when it released certain chemicals into the Tennessee River.

Founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper David Whiteside knows 3M and its chemicals well. His environmental non-profit started a legal battle with the company when it filed a lawsuit against 3M in 2016.

"This breakthrough gives Tennessee Riverkeeper new evidence not to trust 3M and their proper disposal of chemicals,” said Whiteside.

In April, the chemical manufacturing giant told the Environmental Protection Agency it released a chemical called FBSA into the Tennessee River. 3M also told the EPA it may have also released another chemical, FBSEE, into the river.

"Tennessee Riverkeeper is rightfully concerned that 3M has not been following the Toxic Substance Act,” explained Whiteside. “We want to know what else they may be dumping into our river. This is horrifying."

The EPA prohibits the company from releasing those chemicals into the water because the agency is still working to determine if they pose a risk of injury to health or the environment.

The chemicals in question are short chain replacements of PFOA and PFOS. PFOA and PFOS chemicals were found in the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority drinking water supply in 2016. 3M settled a federal drinking water contamination lawsuit with the water authority for $35 million in April.

Environmental regulators did not tell the public about the chemical release. It’s not clear how much or for how long the chemicals were released into the river.

“The politicians are sitting on their hands not doing anything about it,” stated Whiteside. "Do a better job of protecting our waterways and enforcing these common sense laws."

3M released a statement to WHNT News about the chemical release.

“3M voluntarily reported to EPA and ADEM releases from our manufacturing processes that did not comply with the Toxic Substance Control Act. We shut down the identified manufacturing operations and are completing internal changes to fully address the issue. 3M takes seriously its environmental compliance obligations and is continuously assessing its performance against such obligations.”

This is not the first time 3M has admitted to having discrepancies following state or federal regulations after the release of chemicals into the Tennessee River. 3M underreported to ADEM its discharge of chemicals into the Tennessee River from late 2012 to mid-2016.

WHNT News 19 reached out to the EPA for more information about the chemical release. EPA officials tell us they are working to gather more information.

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