A Taking Action Investigation: What Lies Beneath?

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DECATUR, Ala. --  Our investigative team has done extensive reporting of PFAS chemicals in the Tennessee River and drinking water in Lawrence County.

Chemical manufacturing Giant 3M now reports that three closed landfill sites in Morgan County show very high concentrations of the chemicals.

The PFAS chemicals in question, manufactured by 3M for products like Scotchgard, have been deemed "forever chemicals" by scientists because they don't break down in the environment. There are currently no federal standards for PFAS chemicals in soil, though the chemicals have been linked to a number of health problems.

One of the sites that 3M found chemicals on was the longtime home of Brookhaven Middle School.

Brookhaven Middle School opened in 1971 and operated until 2018. Decatur Youth Services' program for at-risk children used the facility until August of this year.

The only Environmental Protection Agency advisory for the chemicals is related to drinking water.

An EPA advisory is issued if more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS chemicals are found in drinking water.

Here's what we know about the preliminary screenings for the chemicals conducted on the former landfills in Morgan County:

The 40-acre Brookhaven/Aquadome landfill was closed in 1963. Preliminary results on the property in July and August 2019 show PFOS levels as high as 3,770 parts per trillion. That is more than 50 times the amount of the current federal drinking water guidelines.

The 40-acre Old Moulton Road landfill shut down in 1973. Preliminary screening from June 2019 found PFOA levels as high as 67,200 parts per trillion. That number is nearly 900 times the current drinking water advisory.

The 81-acre Deer Springs landfill operated until 1981. Site sampling from May 2019 found levels of PFOS as high 236,000 parts per trillion. The level is more than 3,000 times the amount of the EPA drinking water advisory.

The reports indicate extensive additional investigation will be done on the sites, including investigation of groundwater and wells, in the immediate area.

The reports say that the full preliminary investigative analysis will take up to 120 days to complete.  It goes on to say that the final report will be issued 30 days following the receipt of the final laboratory analytical reports.

A spokesperson for 3M released this statement to WHNT News 19 in November.

"Based on the results of initial screening activities, 3M will work with our environmental consultant, GHD, to conduct a Preliminary Investigation of soil, groundwater and surface water consistent with the Alabama Environmental Investigation and Remediation Guidance document and the requirements of the Alabama Voluntary Clean-up Program. The next steps will be dependent on the findings of the Preliminary Investigation."

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