3M, Decatur sign PFAS multi-million dollar settlement agreement, details outlined

Decatur

DECATUR, Ala. — A 3M spokesman said Friday the company signed the PFAS chemical settlement agreements reached with Morgan County, Decatur and Decatur Utilities in long-running lawsuits.

The multi-million dollar settlements were announced October 19, just two weeks before a court-ordered mediation deadline.

The lawsuits stem from allegations that PFAS chemicals made by 3M for decades, polluted the Tennessee River and land in and around Decatur and Morgan County. The chemicals are used in a number of products to provide a barrier for liquids and oils. It does not break down in water and has been linked to a number of health conditions.

A settlement agreement between 3M and Tennessee Riverkeeper group calls for extensive monitoring and Tennessee River cleanup efforts.

The settlement involving Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities involves $98 million in payments from the company to the governments and the utility, it includes multiple cleanup steps.

Attorney Barney Lovelace, who represented the governments and the utility in the litigation, said they received the signed settlement agreement from 3M on Friday.

Decatur officials referred questions about the settlement signing to Lovelace.

“We received today the Settlement Agreement signed by 3M,” Lovelace said in a statement. “Officials from the City of Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities signed the Agreement yesterday. We are very pleased to have this settlement fully executed.”

“We are eager for the remediation work required by the settlement to get underway so our community can have confidence and take comfort knowing that any existing issues will be addressed and cleaned up and that a system of oversight is in place to mitigate any potential environmental issues in the future,” Lovelace continued. “3M has been a good community partner and impacted this community in many positive ways.”

“This has been a very difficult situation for all of us and we very much appreciate their continued commitment to our community for years to come,” Lovelace concluded. “This is a great day for the City of Decatur and all of Morgan County.”

The agreement contains several parts, including $9 million to Decatur and Decatur Utilities for past remediation/cleanup work at the Decatur-Morgan County Landfill; capping cells 2-11 at the landfill to reduce PFAS runoff. The cost borne by 3M for the capping is currently not to exceed $22 million, according to the agreement; 3M will also investigate the presence of PFAS in a pond at the landfill and the groundwater; there is also a study examining the possibility of removing PFOS and PFOA chemicals from landfill runoff; there will also be ongoing work aimed at the cleanup of PFAS from groundwater around the landfill.

3M will pay Decatur Utilities $7 million for removal over a 20-year period of sludge containing PFAS at the Decatur Utilities wastewater treatment plant at the landfill; Decatur will turn over property deeds to 3M for closed landfill properties.

3M will pay Decatur $35 million for a new recreational facility in the city following the investigation and potential remediation of the property where the current Aquadome is located.

3M will also pay $25 million to Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities for “further restitution” and the money will be applied to projects supporting community redevelopment and recreation.

The settlement agreement also says 3M has formed a Community Action Group to “provide community information and assistance in the action/decision-making process.”

The settlement can be read in its entirety here.

The settlement also acknowledges none of the parties admits wrongdoing or liability.

And, there is language where Decatur and Morgan County release the defendants from any other past, present or future claims related to “in any way to the presence of or exposure to and PFAS in and around Decatur, Morgan County, Lawrence County, Franklin County, Limestone County, Colbert County or Lauderdale County, Alabama or in and around the Tennessee River and its tributaries …”

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