3M discovers additional discharge reporting inaccuracies, submits corrections to regulators

DECATUR, Ala.--  3M in Decatur has found additional issues with its discharge reporting into the Tennessee River. The company told WHNT News 19 on Tuesday it found more inaccuracies in its 2012 to 2016 discharge reporting while doing a review of its manufacturing processes.

Discharges reports are information 3M is required to provide the state of Alabama. It's a new announcement by the company, but 3M says it involves information and discharges from several years ago.

3M reported the issue in its recent financial disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission on July 26. The company told investors that in June 2019 the company notified federal and state environmental regulators of incorrect discharge values in certain monthly and quarterly discharge reports.

When WHNT News 19 found the disclosure we asked environmental regulators and 3M what it meant and when the incorrect discharge reporting took place. A 3M spokesperson said Tuesday the company is doing an ongoing review of its manufacturing processes and discovered inaccuracies from its monthly discharge reports from 2012 to 2016.

The company had previous reporting issues for that period. In 2017, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management found a chemical discharge conversion error in 3M's quarterly reports dating from 2012 to 2016.  The company acknowledged it discharged substantially more chemicals into the Tennessee River than its original reports showed. 3M corrected those errors to ADEM in 2017.

While the inaccuracies are from the same time period, 3M said the recently announced corrections are not connected to the quarterly reports.

The company told WHNT News 19 the monthly reports include items such as levels of pH, temperature, and other readings.

In a statement provided to WHNT News 19, the company did not address what caused the reporting errors.

The 3M spokesperson did note the company is not aware of any errors in its reporting since 2017.

3M provided the following statement Tuesday evening:

“As part of our ongoing review of all aspects of our current and past manufacturing operations in Decatur, we disclosed to ADEM reporting errors we found in some of our monthly reports during the 2012-2016 time period. All of the data entries remained within normal ranges aside from a one-time report of oxygen demand that just barely exceeded the permit. We take seriously our commitment to this community. We will continue the review of our operations and be transparent with ADEM throughout the process.”

State records show ADEM and 3M had a meeting about reporting updates on June 19. ADEM water employees, 3M employees and attorneys were present. The state records do not include specific information about what was discussed. WHNT News 19 has asked state regulators for information about the meeting.

Through a spokesperson, ADEM responded to the request Wednesday.

"NPDES permits require permittees to submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs)," ADEM told WHNT News 19. "The DMRs are required to be certified by the corporate official or the designee to be accurate and complete. In situations where it is determined that the certified information submitted on the DMR is incorrect, appropriate enforcement is taken."

The agency said Thursday it is receiving information from 3M.

"Currently, through the electronic reporting system, ADEM is receiving corrected information and will review it to determine potential discrepancies.    Appropriate enforcement will follow."

Governor Kay Ivey's office said it is monitoring the situation and engaged with regulators on the issue. A spokesperson says Gov. Ivey has a meeting scheduled with ADEM's director in the next two weeks.

The Alabama Attorney General's Office released this statement about the inaccurate discharge reporting:

"3M’s failure to adequately report the discharge of certain pollutants is under review by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.  ADEM oversees monitoring and enforcement of the State’s environmental laws and the Attorney General’s Office relies upon their findings to determine if any laws have been broken and if legal action is warranted."

Updated at 8:30 p.m. 

Updated at 5:45 p.m. Aug. 1

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