September 28, 2020 2:16 pm

the Water Works and 3M announced Tuesday that they would work together, along with the Alabama Department of Environmental Managemen

The Guin Water Works and Sewer Board is withdrawing a lawsuit it filed earlier this month against chemical giant 3M over man-made chemicals detected in the creek that supplies its drinking water. Instead, the Water Works and 3M announced Tuesday that they would work together, along with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, to investigate the presence of those chemicals in Purgatory Creek.

“As part of the agreement, GWWSB will dismiss its pending lawsuit while retaining the right to refile the lawsuit if joint efforts do not result in a satisfactory solution,” the parties said in a joint statement.

The lawsuit alleged that PFAS chemicals from the 3M Guin facility had leached from a landfill into Purgatory Creek, and that 3M knowingly and willfully disposed of those chemicals in ways that did not prevent them from entering the water supply and that the company was aware of potential health impacts of PFAS chemicals dating back to the 1970s

The 3M Guin plant is located about 85 miles northwest of Birmingham and 14 miles from the Mississippi state line. It manufactures products including sheeting for road signs, reflective pavement tape for roads, microscopic glass bubbles and ceramic microspheres, used to improve performance of paints or coatings. The facility has been operating in Guin since 1955.

PFAS is the common name for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a series of man-made chemicals sometimes called forever chemicals, that are not found in nature and have been used for decades in a wide range of commercial products, used to create stain-resistant coatings on fabrics (like Scotchgard) or non-stick cookware (Teflon), among other uses.
However, these chemicals have also been linked to health problems, including cancer. The EPA issued a health advisory in 2016 warning that lifetime exposure to these chemicals through drinking water could be harmful, even at concentrations as low as 70 parts per trillion.

In July, 3M reached a consent agreement with the state of Alabama regarding PFAS pollution from its Decatur facility, pledging to pay for the costs of PFAS cleanup without limit. The company says it has already spent $100 million to address PFAS pollution from the Decatur plant, which is separate from the plant in Guin.

When the lawsuit was filed, Guin Water Works said it was seeking to compel 3M to pay for a new filter system to address those chemicals, which are not removed by standard water treatment processes. 3M reached settled a lawsuit with another utility, the West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority in 2019, agreeing to pay $35 million for a new filter system for that utility, which draws from the Tennessee River downstream from 3M’s Decatur facility.

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