Tennessee Riverkeeper says 3M has made lawsuit settlement offer

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DECATUR, Ala. — After years of litigation 3M, the City of Decatur and Morgan County may be closer to resolving a lawsuit filed against them by the Tennessee Riverkeeper environmental group.

The federal lawsuit, filed in 2016, had a Feb. 28 mediation deadline.

U.S. District Court Judge Liles Burke Tuesday morning extended the mediation deadline to April 30. The judge also ordered the parties to provide the court a “joint status report” on May 3.

The court has encouraged the parties to try and resolve the lawsuit short of going to trial. The deadline has been extended multiple times.

It does appear a settlement offer has been made, though details remain hidden behind the mediation secrecy rules.

David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper, provided an update on the negotiations to News 19.

“3M sent a potential settlement agreement which arrived just before the mediation deadline in February 2021,” Whiteside said. “Tennessee Riverkeeper will have some time to decide whether it is a worthy agreement or not. Tennessee River communities have suffered long enough.

“We aim to defend their rights to safe drinking water and to fish and swim in a clean, wholesome river.”

3M declined comment Monday.

The dispute centers on PFAS chemicals made by 3M for decades at its Decatur plant.  The microscopic chemicals don’t break down in water and have been linked to a number of health effects.

There is a federal lifetime health advisory for drinking water for some PFAS chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — but no other federal regulations have been established.

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