Wheeler Reservoir, PFOS remain on Alabama’s new fish consumption list


Ron Mixon surveys the Tennessee River’s Wheeler Basin Tuesday. (Photo: Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19)

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Data pix.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- The Alabama Department of Public Health renewed its warning today for residents not to eat more than one largemouth bass a month, in an area of the Tennessee River used by the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority.

The authority is under a drinking water health advisory and has advised residents not to drink or cook with its water.

The fish consumption advisory cites the presence of the chemical PFOS, which was manufactured by 3M until 2002 at its Decatur plant.

The advisory describes a stretch of the Tennessee River where the advisory applies at Wheeler Reservoir: “Mid station, main river channel, Tennessee River mile 296. (Limestone County) 303 to 296.  Area south of the main river channel. (Morgan  County).”

The advisory notes, “PFOS is chemically and biologically stable. The molecule is very resistant to degradation; therefore it is extremely persistent in the environment. PFOS has been shown to accumulate in fish tissues.”

PFOS and PFOA, both produced by 3M, became the subject of an Environmental Protection Agency health advisory issued in May. The EPA said the presence of the chemicals above a concentration of 70 parts per trillion over a lifetime of exposure has been linked to adverse health effects, including kidney and testicular cancer.

The EPA also reported that testing of drinking water from the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority showed the presence of the chemicals in concentrations above the EPA limits.

In early June the authority’s general manager Don Sims warned residents not to drink or cook with the water. The authority said this week it has started buying water from Decatur Utilities and adding it to its system. The authority said recent testing now shows undetectable levels of PFOS and levels of PFOA at 25 parts per trillion.

The authority has sued 3M, Daikin and Dyneon, arguing the companies have polluted the Tennessee River with PFOA and PFOS and should pay for filtering equipment to clean up the authority’s drinking water.

The lawsuit contends the area involving the fish advisory also affects the source of its drinking water.

“This includes the area between Wheeler Dam and River Mile 296 where The Authority takes water from the Tennessee River to provide its customers including the Water Utilities.”

Correction: The story was updated 1:40 p.m., Friday to correct the name of the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority. 

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