Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances

The Social Discovery of a Class of Emerging Contaminants

Decatur, Alabama

Suspected contamination source: 3M manufacturing facility in Decatur (Lerner, 2016)

The 3M manufacturing facility in Decatur was a major producer of PFOA and PFOS until the company phased out production of both chemicals in 2002. Since PFASs are extremely persistent in the environment, many believe the chemicals are still leaching into the Tennessee River, and eventually Wheeler Reservoir even though the active production has stopped.

According to archived EPA documents, in 2007 a local industry notified EPA that it had inadvertently discharged large quantities of a PFAS to Decatur Utilities. At that time, biosolids from Decatur Utilities were being applied as a fertilizer on about 5000 acres of privately owned agricultural fields in Alabama’s Lawrence, Morgan and Limestone counties. This practice had been ongoing since 1996.

Between 2005 and 2011, EPA and a group of local industries sampled for PFASs in soils and water in areas where biosolids were applied. PFOA and PFOS were detected at 110ppt in West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority, above the 70ppt EPA chronic exposure threshold.

100,000 people in north Alabama were advised not drink water from their taps due to elevated levels of  PFOA and PFOS. Affected areas include Morgan County, Lawrence County, Etowah County, Fort Payne, Centre, and West Point.

Decatur Utilities agreed to supply up to 2.8 million gallons per day of clean drinking water to the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority in June 2016. A carbon filtration system was installed, and the “no drink” order was eventually lifted in September 2016.

Additional Resources:

Read the fact sheet the EPA released on Decatur here

Keep Your Promises Dupont

Warriors for Clean Water

News Coverage

Full citations are available on the second page of the full contamination site tracker. We ask for your additions, changes, questions and comments be sent to pfasproject@gmail.com.

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