Attorney General says state law exists to pursue litigation against 3M over Lawrence County water issues

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - Water issues continue for residents of Lawrence County, but Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall recently admitted there is applicable state law to pursue legal action against 3M.

More than two and a half years after being told not to drink their water, residents of Lawrence County are still concerned.

Several who live there believe their drinking water is killing them after high levels of toxic manufacturing chemicals were found in it.

The State of Alabama has taken no formal action to solve the drinking water issues, but recently the attorney general revealed there is a legal framework the state could use to go after the companies accused of polluting the water.

3M in Decatur dumped toxic manufacturing chemicals in the Tennessee River for decades.

And the people in Lawrence County have been drinking water filtered from the Tennessee River for decades. In 2016, West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority told its residents to not drink our water.

That announcement still haunts folks who live in Lawrence County.

The water authority manager told the public the water was unsafe to drink because the level of PFOA and PFOS chemicals found in it were above the EPA health advisory.

The water authority immediately installed a carbon filtration system to filter out those chemicals, but the current carbon system is a temporary fix.

The water authority is suing 3M to pay for a reverse osmosis system and wants the attorney general to join their fight. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has been reluctant to go after 3M, citing a lack of state law.

In a recent interview, though, he admitted the state could pursue litigation against the chemical manufacturing giant.

"Obviously there's litigation going on right now, and in many ways, the litigation they are seeking in the current cases would also be applicable relating to the public nuisance," he explained.

Marshall indicated his office is still waiting on more research to be done on the toxic chemicals.

The EPA has already linked the chemicals to a number of health effects including cancer, ulcerative colitis, kidney issues and more.

"The National Academy of Science is trying to come up with very specific standards," Marshall continued. "As well as how much exposure truly is a public health threat. I think that will be germane and relevant to us about what can be done."

The attorney general says he has had contact with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management on WMEL's issues.

In the middle of December, ADEM told the water authority it should get its water from somewhere else. The state's environmental chief regulator also said he didn't believe a reverse osmosis system - the most effective system to filter out the manufacturing chemicals - was worth the cost.

Meanwhile, people in Lawrence County say the drinking water is killing them.

Marshall says he stands ready to meet with WMEL Water Authority officials.

This story was updated on Feb. 7, 2019

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