Riverkeeper organization balances Earth Day efforts with legal battle against 3M


DECATUR, Ala. — April 22 is usually a busy day for environmentalists, but one local group is also spending Earth Day still in a legal fight over the polluting of the Tennessee River.

An ongoing lawsuit between Tennessee Riverkeeper and the 3M chemical corporation is approaching a new deadline to reach a settlement deal.

The lawsuit has been a back and forth of negotiations over what 3M should and should not take physical and financial responsibility for, but no concrete answer is known just yet.

The case has lasted since 2016, with the environmental group alleging that 3M dumped dangerous PFAS chemicals into the Tennessee River near Decatur, endangering the area because the compounds cannot be naturally broken down.

The mediation deadline was extended to late April, and parties are to file a joint status report by May 3 updating the court on the progress of the case, according to documents.

“We are in the final stages of mediation, and looking at settlement offers and discussing potential settlements,” Riverkeeper founder David Whiteside said. “But I can tell you this, that Riverkeeper will ensure that 3M and the other polluters will expeditiously clean up their PFAS contamination and pollution in the Tennessee Valley. I can assure you that.”

Whiteside admits that he’s unsure if the case’s deadline will be extended again, but affirms that the outcome will result in better river water quality for those in Morgan and Lawrence counties at the least.

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