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DECATUR, Ala. – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall tell WHNT News 19 they are monitoring the Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation into an illegal chemical release into the Tennessee River. The EPA confirms it is investigating the chemical release. “My Office is monitoring the situation and will continue to consult with ADEM and the Attorney General’s Office on this matter,” said Gov. Ivey. 3M disclosed that the company violated Toxic Substance Control Act in a letter to the EPA in April. The letter, which was sent by an attorney on behalf of 3M, says the plant in Decatur released the chemical FBSA into the Tennessee River. The company also notes that it may have also released a similar chemical, FBSEE, into the river. The discovery of the release was apparently found during a 3M internal investigation. 3M tells the EPA it has stopped manufacturing operations for both chemicals due to concerns of further violating a federal consent order to not release them into the water.
A consent order with the EPA indicates the company is prohibited from releasing the chemicals because the agency is still working to determine if they pose a risk of injury to health or the environment. 3M released a statement about the situation to WHNT News 19. “3M voluntarily reported to EPA and ADEM releases from our manufacturing processes that did not comply with the Toxic Substance Control Act. We shut down the identified manufacturing operations and are completing internal changes to fully address the issue. 3M takes seriously its environmental compliance obligations and is continuously assessing its performance against such obligations.” The company also notes that it is developing corrective actions to ensure such releases do not happen again. We are still working to learn how much or for how long the chemicals were released into the river. Gov. Ivey told WHNT News 19 in October 2018 that she believes companies accused of polluting the Tennessee River and other waterways in Alabama should be held accountable. Environmental group Tennessee Riverkeeper has expressed concern about how and if regulatory agencies will enforce the law in this matter. Founder David Whiteside said he is furious that regulators did not notify the public that 3M did not obey federal law in its chemical disposal process. The EPA said that it cannot comment about the chemical release, citing the agency’s ongoing investigation into the situation.