This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — We are continuing to press government officials for answers about illegal chemical releases into the Tennessee River. WHNT News 19 discovered that 3M violated federal law by releasing toxic chemicals for a decade — and the state had permitted it. We asked Gov. Kay Ivey about the issue today during her visit to Huntsville. Chelsea Brentzel asked, “Why then did it take me finding documents to make the public aware that 3M was violating federal law for 10 years by releasing toxic chemicals into the Tennessee River with ADEM’s approval?” Governor Ivey responded by saying “I have a lot of respect for ADEM authority but this case needs solutions on the table and I’m not seeing many of those solutions. And while I have a lot of respect for the ADEM and their operations… I look forward to having some real solutions offered to address the concerns of those citizens.” We also asked the governor if she thought the state’s successful model of industry recruitment in any way relies on lax environmental enforcement to help attract big business. “Well, the state does not control ADEM, per se. It’s a state agency so everybody assumes. But anyways I’m just encouraging them to show some positive possible solutions. And they need to get all the facts… and if there’s a fault to be found… there needs to be accountability.”
We’re also looking at new 3M investigations into old landfills in Morgan County and why it may be concerning for generations of Decatur city school students. Morgan County and Decatur city officials have requested 3M conduct investigations into decades-old landfills. The idea of 3M conducting investigations into waste it dumped years ago isn’t unique to this situation. In fact — as WHNT News 19 first reported this spring — the company did similar site assessments this year for previously undisclosed dump sites it bought up in Lawrence County. We’re learning more about the type and volume of chemicals that may be on properties where 3M disposed of its waste. The company found perflourinated chemicals on previously undisclosed dump sites in Lawrence County. On Monday, 3M and Decatur city officials announced the company would look for these types of chemicals in old landfills — one of which became home to generations of Decatur city school students at Brookhaven Middle School. It’s also where a Decatur rec center — the Aquadome — sits. “Tennessee Riverkeeper wants to see more transparency… more data… more scientific sampling on the sites and the landfills,” said David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper.” 3M sent a postcard to residents in Lawrence County back in February. The company said it had purchased two pieces of property — including one off County Road 222. In a meeting last month with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, 3M told regulators what it found in Lawrence County on the property. Some of the soil results — reported by 3M — are 405-times higher than the volume of chemicals considered safe for drinking water. But 3M says the soil samples did not exceed the environmental protection agency’s “human health screening level”. 3M also told regulators it had started groundwater sampling near the County Road 222 property. 3M’s update may shed light on what’s in the decades-old landfills in Morgan County where 3M was allowed to dispose of waste. “This is a serious problem that 3M has created in North Alabama,” Whiteside said, “and if we don’t have support from ADEM and the governor and the attorney general and the Mayor of Decatur then this is never going to be cleaned up and 3M is going to be left off the hook by the people we have elected to protect the public.”