DECATUR, Ala. – The Morgan County Commission and the Decatur City Council approved lawsuit settlements with 3M and the Tennessee Riverkeeper in long-running litigation over chemical contamination cleanup.
Two different lawsuits filed several years ago over PFAS chemicals made by 3M for decades at its Decatur plant are now settled.
3M stopped making the PFAS chemicals two decades ago, but the microscopic materials don’t break down in water, earning the nickname “forever chemicals.” They’ve been linked to a number of health problems, but there is no federal law governing the chemicals.
The council and commission were relieved that the settlement has been reached, and glad that millions of dollars will go towards clean-up and other projects.
“We fought hard to get these defendants to stand up and say ‘alright we’re going to do something about it.'” said Bill Matsikoudis, attorney for Tennessee Riverkeeper.
Attorneys for the Tennessee Riverkeeper group say while this settlement is a long time coming, there is still more to go.
“We actually have to work harder going forward to make sure the investigations that we see, that we analyze them closely and that we speak out about whats the right remediation,” said Matsikoudis. “That’s going to be one of the most important environmental decisions in America.”
David Whiteside says this is just the start to cleaning up PFAS and other forever chemicals.
“Tennessee Riverkeeper believes this is the right step going forward but we have a lot of questions as well,” said Whiteside. “We want to stay on 3M to make sure they clean this up thoroughly and we believe the citizen also ought to demand public health studies. They have a right to know if this is in their bodies or not.”
Among the key details in the settlement, 3M has agreed to pay millions to cap several Decatur Utilities landfills.
3M will pay $35 million for a new recreation center and ball fields to replace the Aquadome in Decatur.
And 3M will pay Decatur, Morgan County, and Decatur Utilities $25 million and $9 million for past PFAS costs.
“In the next year or so, we will start to have discussions and decisions about how the 3M plant site and the river are going to be remediated,” said Matsikoudis.
Attorneys say there will be accountability in the future because of the way these settlements were written.
The settlement now goes for approval by a judge before funding from defendants is made available for remediation or chemical cleanup.