Long-running Tennessee Riverkeeper-3M lawsuit could be nearing resolution

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DECATUR, Ala. – The Tennessee Riverkeeper’s nearly five-year-old lawsuit against 3M, Decatur and Morgan County may be near a resolution.

The parties have been in mediation for more than three years and Friday, June 4, marks the current mediation deadline.

The Tennessee Riverkeeper group says PFAS chemicals, produced by 3M at its Decatur plant for several decades, have polluted the Tennessee River and they want the court to direct the company, Morgan County and Decatur to embark on a cleanup effort.

The mediation process is not public, but David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper, spoke to News 19 about the ongoing litigation in federal court in Alabama.

“Tennessee Riverkeeper is still in mediation with 3M, and the other polluters for their PFAS pollution, Whiteside said. “The judge has issued many extensions in this case, the clock is running out for both parties to either settle or go to trial. We certainly will keep the public informed as soon as a major development happens.

“Right now, Tennessee Riverkeeper’s legal team and myself are poring through a very long and detailed proposed settlement agreement.”

3M did not respond today to a request for comment. Previously, the company has declined to discuss ongoing negotiations.

3M stopped making the PFAS chemicals two decades ago, but the microscopic materials don’t break down in water, earning the nickname “forever chemicals.” They’ve been linked to a number of health problems, but there is no federal law governing the chemicals.

3M has a longstanding agreement with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for PFAS cleanup at its plant in Decatur. 3M also entered a consent order last year with ADEM for cleanup of potentially contaminated sites in Morgan and Lawrence Counties.

The case is currently set for a status conference June 21.

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