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Alabama water system settle contamination suit with 3M

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — A north Alabama utility that provides drinking water to thousands of people has reached a settlement announced Friday in a lawsuit against 3M over chemical contamination.

The agreement was revealed in a statement released by the company and the West Morgan-East Limestone Water and Sewer Authority, which once warned customers against drinking its water because of chemical contamination.

The settlement allows for the utility to construct a new filtration system for treating water, the statement said, but additional details weren’t released. The water authority has said such a system would cost at least $30 million.

The utility sued to make 3M pay for a new filtration system to remove industrial chemicals that 3M produced for decades along the Tennessee River at Decatur. The settlement only involves the water authority and didn’t resolve other claims against the company.

Federal rules prompted a brief scare in 2016 when the water system told customers not to drink the water because of chemical contamination.

The Decatur Daily reported that the lawsuit focused on substances known as PFAS.

At least two of the chemicals in the PFAS family, PFOA and PFOS, were contained in sludge dumped on 287 acres of 3M’s riverfront Decatur facility and continue to contaminate the groundwater there, according to 3M filings with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

The chemicals also are present in off-site dumps and landfills, and the water authority alleged that 3M waste was a primary source of river contamination.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has said health risks associated with PFOA and PFOS include kidney and testicular cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility and decreased birth weight.

PFOA and PFOS have largely been phased out of production in the United States, and neither chemical has been used at the Decatur plant since at least 2008, according to 3M.

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