HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- WHNT News 19 has learned that 3M was subpoenaed in December by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Alabama.
Today 3M CEO Mike Roman announced the grand jury subpoena during an investor conference call.
"As previously disclosed in 2019, 3M discovered and voluntarily informed the EPA and appropriate state authorities that discharges from our Decatur, Alabama facility may not have complied with permit requirements. We immediately idled the relevant processes and took steps to address these issues.
"In connection with our Decatur disclosures 3M received a grand jury subpoena from the US Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama in late December 2019.
"And we are cooperating with this inquiry."
It appears related to illegal chemical releases from the company's Decatur plant that WHNT News 19 investigative reporter Chelsea Brentzel was the first to inform the public about back in June 2019. The releases in question involve a chemical called FBSA, which the company discharged into the Tennessee River for more than a decade despite a federal permit prohibiting it from doing so.
3M has made PFAS chemicals at its Decatur plant for decades. The chemicals, used in products like Scotchgard are often described as "forever chemicals" because they don't easily break down. The chemicals, which were recently found at three former landfill sites in Decatur, have been linked to a series of health problems, including some cancers. 3M settled with the West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority for $35 million in 2019, after PFAS chemicals were found in the system's drinking water.
Roman added that those releases may have not complied with 3M's permit and that the process was immediately idled.
WHNT News 19 was the first to report the releases in June 2019 after we discovered an April letter 3M sent the EPA.
Roman told investors that 3M also looked at its other facilities and in the fourth quarter found that similar type releases may have occurred at its Cordova, Ill. plant.
It’s not clear if the grand jury investigation is still ongoing, or if it has reached any conclusions.
Jay Town, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, declined to comment on the matter.
3M said it took a $214 million charge in the 4th quarter related to PFAS litigation.
We are working to learn more and more and will bring you the latest.