Settlement deadline nears in Tennessee Riverkeeper lawsuit against 3M

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DECATUR, Ala. – Once again a deadline is looming in the ongoing federal lawsuit filed against 3M, Decatur, and Morgan County by the Tennessee Riverkeeper environmental group.

The group alleges PFAS chemicals made by 3M in Decatur have polluted the Tennessee River and wants 3M and the other defendants to be ordered to clean it up.

The lawsuit has a mediation deadline of Sunday, Feb. 28. But that deadline has been extended multiple times previously.

The parties are currently in closed-door negotiations.

3M declined comment Thursday on the status of those negotiations. Decatur officials have previously declined to discuss the ongoing mediation, citing confidentiality requirements.

David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper, said delays have been frustrating and a cleanup effort is necessary.

“Tennessee Riverkeeper hopes that 3M sends a settlement agreement soon, which would be right before our mediation deadline,” he said. “Then the organization will have some time to decide whether it is a worthy agreement or not.”

While 3M is involved in mediation, it is already party to a consent order from the State of Alabama, established last year.

As part of the agreement, the company is required to clean up PFAS chemicals at multiple sites in Morgan and Lawrence counties. The chemicals have been tied to a number of health effects, but federal rules governing PFAs are still being developed.

Lance LeFleur, executive director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, recently spoke to News 19 about that consent order.

“There are about 50 individual requirements in that order,” LeFleur said. “It covers everything from various planning steps to site investigation, feasibility studies, equipment upgrades, additional control equipment, process adjustments, health studies, monitoring, the list goes on.

“It’s quite an extensive list. Keep in mind, we’re only six months into the process, and this is something that’s going to last for years to come. But our objective is to make sure we get this done right.”

The properties for the cleanup include the former Brookhaven Middle School site in Decatur.
           

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