State of Alabama permitted 3M to release toxic chemicals into Tennessee River for years, records show

DECATUR, Ala. - In April, 3M reported to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management that it was discharging chemicals that are illegal to put into water. But records show that the state of Alabama had been alerted for years and did not stop the continued release of the toxic chemical into the Tennessee River.

WHNT News 19 discovered that 3M disclosed on state discharge reports to ADEM that it was releasing chemical FBSA since at least 2014.

FBSA appears to have been listed as a chemical on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2009.  However, the state of Alabama appears to have made no adjustments to its laws or regulations regarding allowing the chemical in its water.

3M admitted that it released FBSA and possibly released FBSEE into the river in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency in April. The chemical manufacturing giant further admits releasing those specific chemicals into water violates the TSCA.

The discovery of the release was apparently found during a 3M internal investigation. 3M told the EPA it has stopped manufacturing operations for both chemicals due to concerns of further violating a federal consent order to not release them into the water.

Environmental testing laboratory Test America confirmed FBSA and FBSEE are short chain PFAS chemicals. The lab said both chemicals are precursors and have the ability to oxidize into other PFAS chemicals.

A consent order, which the 3M's letter says was established in 2009 with the EPA, indicates the company is prohibited from releasing the chemicals because the agency is still working to determine if they pose a risk of injury to health or the environment.

3M issued a statement to WHNT News 19 regarding the chemical releases.

“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.”

The public was not notified of the illegal chemical release until WHNT News 19 discovered the letter on June 14.

ADEM says the EPA has regulatory authority regarding this violation and because of that public notification would need to come from federal regulators. ADEM told WHNT News 19 it has coordinated with EPA Region 4 regarding the release of these chemicals. The EPA said it has an open investigation into the matter and has no further comment at this time.

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