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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. – Residents in Lawrence and Morgan counties are closer to getting some of the cleanest drinking water in the country. The West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority broke ground on an advanced filtration system in January after 3M paid $35 million to settle a drinking water contamination lawsuit in 2019. 

WMEL officials tell WHNT News 19 the system — a reverse osmosis treatment plant — will filter out all forms of PFAS chemicals. 3M in Decatur produced the chemicals in question for decades. The company discharged them into the Tennessee River about 10 miles upstream of WMEL’s water intake. 

WMEL’s general manager Don Sims issued a ‘do not drink’ advisory into 2016 after unhealthy levels of the chemicals were discovered in the drinking water. Sims faced pushback from some public officials for issuing the advisory at the time. He continued to push for clean drinking water for three years in a lawsuit against 3M. The new reverse osmosis treatment plant will be named after Sims. 

BH Craig Construction Company of Florence is building the plant. 

The water authority tells WHNT News 19 customers will receive reverse osmosis treated water in early 2021.