3M says chemicals found in groundwater at Lawrence County dump site

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TRINITY, Ala. —  3M says a survey of an old dump site in Trinity found detectable levels of per-and polyfluoroalkyls, but says those levels mostly fall below risky levels outlined by the federal government.

3M said on Monday it will recommend monitoring groundwater at the Lawrence County site on a quarterly basis to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). They also recommended excavating at the site to confirm the results of the survey.

PFAS are chemicals linked to a number of human health problems that 3M used to make products such as Scotchgard and Teflon.

3M said Monday that a survey of a site near County Roads 222 and 550 found PFAS levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Screening Level in a section of shallow groundwater that isn’t used for drinking. Groundwater and soil levels in the rest of the site fall below the risk level, the company said.

ADEM Response

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management issued the following statement Monday morning:

ADEM continues to assess, investigate, and monitor 3M as they continue to test various soils, groundwater and surface water associated with these sites. The initial data collected and assessed indicates that PFAS has been detected during the preliminary testing.During this ongoing investigation, additional sites may be identified as more data is collected. There are very few, if any, private drinking water wells in the area. 3M is also working with ADEM and the Alabama Department of Public Health to identify and address private drinking water wells that may be affected by PFAS in groundwater from the historical waste disposal sites.ADEM has requested that 3M provide testing to owners of private drinking water wells – at no cost – that may be impacted. 3M has agreed to do this, so private well owners who may be affected will be contacted in the near future in order to sample their wells.

Watchdog Response

Tennessee River environmental watchdog group founder David Whiteside with the Tennessee Riverkeeper responded to 3M’s findings:

“This is anther example of how dangerous PFAS has spread from 3M’s plant site. PFAS needs to be delineated and then expeditiously and thoroughly cleaned up.”

Background Information

In February, residents who live nearby received a postcard from 3M briefly explaining what was happening on the County Road 222 property. The disposal site on County Road 222 was on less than an acre of the 11-acre property and was owned by a waste-hauling business in the 1970s and 1980s, 3M said.

According to online records, the residents who lived on the property found industrial waste in 2017. 3M bought the land from them for $549,900 in August 2018. Lawrence County assessment records indicate the price 3M paid for the land is $333,000 higher than the assessed value of the 11-acre property.

PFAS chemicals were at the center of a $35 million drinking water contamination settlement between 3M and the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority in April.

Following WHNT News 19’s extensive reporting on the PFAS concerns in north Alabama, the city of Decatur announced in July that 3M would investigate three former landfills. The company said Monday it is still looking for PFAS at other closed waste disposal sites including at Brookhaven Middle School, Deer Springs, Old Moulton Road/Mud Tavern, and the Johnson disposal site.

“We are committed to working with ADEM and the City of Decatur to make sure that all of these properties, which were closed decades ago, are rigorously sampled and tested,” said Michelle Howell, plant manager, 3M Decatur. “It’s important that, if necessary, the water and waste be treated according to 21st century waste management standards, and we intend to do just that.”

3M said it would submit plans to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) for each landfill.

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