Decatur city council members meet with attorneys involved with 3M litigation

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DECATUR, Ala. – Tuesday afternoon the Decatur city council held a special meeting in their council chambers but it quickly turned into executive session, where officials are allowed to discuss certain matters, like litigation, behind closed doors.

Charles Kirby, who represents District 4 on the City Council, says that the meeting was to discuss ongoing litigation involving 3M.

He says the meeting included attorneys for the city, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities, as well as an an attorney for plaintiffs in the lawsuit, essentially the other side.

Decatur is a co-defendant in two separate lawsuits with 3M. The lawsuits allege 3M, other companies and local governments allowed the companies’ PFAS chemicals to contaminate the Tennessee River. A representative from Tennessee Riverkeeper, one of the plaintiffs suing 3M, confirmed that attorneys for its organization were not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

3M made PFAS chemicals for decades at its Decatur plant. They stopped making the chemicals PFOA and PFOS — which were used to create water- and stain-resistant products — around 2002. The company still produces similar chemicals. The PFOA and PFOS chemicals don’t break down in water and can lodge in the human body. In May 2016 the EPA issued a lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.

The discovery of PFAS chemical contamination at Decatur’s former Brookhaven Middle School led the board of education to threaten to sue 3M in December. The property was sold by the school board to 3M in May for $1.25 million.

But the Decatur-owned Aquadome Recreation Center, which sits right next to Brookhaven, wasn’t sold.

Multiple Decatur city council members told WHNT News 19 last week they have concerns about that property. Kirby told WHNT that he hoped resolving the lawsuits would lead to testing and cleanup of the site. He says testing was addressed during Tuesday’s executive session.

“I think they identified for us that adequate testing is or will be done. The remediation and the limitation of the technology on how to fix this I think will cause concern in the future,” Kirby said.

Last week Kirby said he thought the ongoing litigation was taking too long. Other council members indicated they wanted to see a resolution in the coming months. Evidence gathering, known as discovery, continues in the lawsuit. Kirby says he doesn’t know how long that will take.

Before the council went into executive session, council members discussed modifying a city ordinance so that the mayor would need consent from the council to settle lawsuits involving bodily injury that exceeds $100,000. Council members say this item will be brought up at the city council meeting next week.