Environmental group expresses concern over chemicals at closed Morgan County landfill

Decatur

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. – PFAS chemicals have been a source of controversy and concern in the past and are once again the subject of complaints by a local environmental group. The group says it has discovered alarming levels at another Decatur area landfill.

PFAS chemicals, which were once manufactured by 3M, have already been identified in Decatur, Morgan County, and Lawrence County.

Environmental watchdog Tennessee Riverkeeper is hunting down more locations. The founder, David Whiteside, said his organization recently tested water around the closed Morgan County landfill near Old Moulton Road in Decatur.

“The numbers that we’ve seen coming out of the old Morgan County landfill are thousands of times higher than that 70 parts per trillion,” he explained.

Whiteside is referring to the EPA’s ‘parts per trillion’ standard for drinking water. There is no standard for groundwater.

Tennessee Riverkeeper said it is working to pinpoint problem areas.

“We need to find all the known dumps and undisclosed dumps,” Whiteside added. “The numbers coming off of this landfill, certainly make it one of the most concerning hotspots in Morgan County, and they’re going to have to do some serious remediation to fix this problem.”

Whiteside said an EPA certitfied lab confirmed the high levels of PFAS in the water that runs under the old landfill into Mud Tavern Creek in March and May of this year.

Some nearby property owners say they’re concerned for their families who have grown up fishing and playing in Mud Tavern Creek.

In a video taken by one nearby resident, the creek appears to be an orange color with water running from piping laid under the now-covered landfill.

“These are alarming levels, and where they’re being discharged is also of concern to Riverkeeper because they are being discharged into a part of the county that we thought was not as contaminated,” Whiteside said. “They’re also flowing into the Point Mallard area, and possibly flowing into the drinking water intake because the creek that they’re flowing into empties upstream from our drinking water intake.”

Decatur Utilities said that’s not the case. In a statement to WHNT News 19 the company said the stormwater runoff from the landfill is heavily diluted by other water sources before it gets to the treatment plant.

“While storm water runoff from this landfill makes its way via Flint Creek into the Tennessee River upstream of the DU Water Treatment Plant, it is highly diluted by other water within the watershed as well as the hundreds of millions of gallons of water in the Wheeler Basin Reservoir before entering the plant’s intake. Thus, the levels of PFCs in tests of DU’s water supply have consistently been less than 5 PPT, which is near minimum detection levels and well below the EPA’s advisory limit of 70 PPT for lifetime exposure.”

Decatur Utilities

3M also issued a statement to WHNT News 19 in response to Tennessee Riverkeeper’s allegations.

“At the City’s request, 3M conducted initial PFAS sampling and testing at the Old Moulton Road landfill and shared our findings with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management along with a preliminary investigation work plan in November 2019. Since then, 3M has completed construction of access roads for needed equipment, and commenced the investigation activities. The investigation will be completed in accordance with the Alabama Environmental Investigation and Remediation Guidance.  3M will work with ADEM and the City of Decatur to determine appropriate next steps, including remediation tools and techniques, upon completion of the investigation.”

3M

Decatur Utilities said its aware of and monitoring the activities. The company confirmed the property is part of ongoing litigation.

Whiteside said his organization just wants to see the issue corrected for future generations.

“The sole purpose of our environmental lawsuit is to force the polluters to clean up. Morgan county, Lawrence County and the Tennessee River.”

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