Uncertainty surrounds ADEM’s role in regulation of banned chemicals

DECATUR, Ala. -  3M announced on Monday that the company was expanding chemical investigation into decades-old landfills in Morgan County.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is the agency charged with regulating activities by companies like 3M. However, based on public records, the relationship between the company and regulators and what is and isn't regulated can be confusing.

WHNT News 19 discovered a letter 3M sent to the Environmental Protection Agency admitting the Decatur plant released the chemical FBSA into the river. The April letter also admits the release of that specific chemical into water violates the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

During our investigation, we found that 3M actually reported the chemical releases to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for years.

Online records show state regulators met with 3M the same day WHNT News 19 reported the company had been reporting the illegal discharges to the state. The agency said it has required 3M to report discharges of FBSA since 2007.

While Alabama is subject to federal environmental law, the state's environmental regulator didn't have much to say about the recurring violation of federal law.

A spokesperson for ADEM said the state does not enforce the Toxic Substances Control Act. ADEM told WHNT News 19 enforcement of the law falls under federal regulators.

We also asked ADEM if the agency knew the chemical they were permitting to be released into the Tennessee River was on a banned list. ADEM replied that it didn't know if it was allowed to regulate the chemical.

ADEM said that information submitted to the EPA has the potential to be classified as business confidential.

3M's discharge permit is currently up for renewal and is under review. The ADEM spokesperson said the permit has been "administratively extended consistent with ADEM rules."

The EPA said it has no further comment on the illegal releases. Officials said the situation is currently under investigation.

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