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$98.4M offered for Decatur, Morgan County, Decatur Utilities to settle PFAS lawsuits

The two governments and the utility must approve the settlement tied to lawsuits that include 3M, Daikin, Toray, BFI and Synagro.

Posted: Oct 19, 2021 10:10 AM
Updated: Oct 19, 2021 5:28 PM

The City of Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities are set to receive a $98.4-million settlement as the result of mediation regarding two lawsuits dealing with PFAS.

The two governments and the utility must approve the settlement tied to lawsuits that include 3M, Daikin, Toray, BFI and Synagro.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, or PFAS, refers to more than 4,000 manmade chemicals that are often called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to certain cancers, weakened immunity, thyroid disease and other health effects, according to the New York Times. (Read more HERE)

A public meeting to consider accepting the settlement is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Ingalls Harbor Pavillion, 802-A Wilson St. NW, Decatur. Below is more from a news release from the city of Decatur. Below that is a news release from 3M.

The Cases and Settlements

The St. John case is a civil action pending before the Circuit Court of Morgan County, Alabama. Lead attorney for the plaintiffs is Leon Ashford of Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton.

The Tennessee Riverkeeper case is pending before the U.S. District Court, with Bill Matsikoudis of Matsikoudis & Fanciullo as lead attorney for the plaintiffs. Barney Lovelace and David Langston of Harris, Caddell & Shanks represent Decatur, Morgan County, and Decatur Utilities.

In an unusual move, the two cases were ordered into mediation together, resulting in settlements that work together for the good of the residents of Decatur and Morgan County, as well as the other plaintiffs in both cases - under the laws that govern each type of case.

The settlement of $98.4 million includes the following:

· $9.2 Million Reimbursement for past PFAS costs

· $7.0 Million for Future sludge disposal costs for DU

· $25.0 Million Payment to Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities

· $22.2 Million Payment to cap Cells 2-11 of the Decatur Morgan County Regional Landfill (DMCRL)

· $35.0 Million for a New recreational facility and ball fields to replace the Aquadome complex

In addition to the defined settlement amounts, key terms of the agreement require that 3M will pay the entire cost to investigate the extent, if any, of contamination of PFAS in groundwater at the Decatur Morgan County Regional Landfill; to treat groundwater contaminated with PFAS at DMCRL, if required by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM); and for any remediation work related to contamination by PFAS required by ADEM or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the City of Decatur’s three closed landfill sites. Today, 3M is working under an Interim Consent Order with ADEM which requires 3M to investigate and remediate any site where PFAS waste from the 3M plant site was disposed.

The Path Forward

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling stated, “I appreciate the work of all parties to bring these lawsuits to a close. We are ready now to look to the future. 3M has long been an involved corporate citizen here and we appreciate how they’ve stepped up to help remedy issues related to chemicals no longer produced in the U.S. This settlement will fund improvements that will make the environment in Decatur and Morgan County healthier. We are pleased that 3M is funding the development of a replacement rec center that adds a quality of life benefit for the whole city.”

Decatur Water Quality

The proposed settlement amounts for Decatur Utilities are related to the disposal of sludge from the wastewater treatment plant. They are not related to drinking water supplied by Decatur Utilities to its retail customers within the City of Decatur or its resale customers.

“DU takes great pride in the quality of water provided to our retail and resale customers and wants to ensure all customers that they can have great confidence in its safety. Over the last decade, DU’s Water Treatment Plant has consistently been recognized as one of the best-operated plants in Alabama,” stated DU General Manager & CEO Ray Hardin.

Identifying Sites

“In addition to capping Cells 2 through 11 at the Decatur Morgan County Regional Landfill, 3M is working with ADEM to identify other locations in Morgan and Lawrence Counties that might have received waste with PFAS and to determine next steps,” stated Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long. “We are all working together to ensure solutions for a healthier future for our citizens.”

One of the impacted sites is the old city landfill that was closed in the 1950‘s. That site is the home of the current Aquadome complex. 3M has agreed to pay $35 million to the City of Decatur to build a replacement recreation facility that will include an indoor pool and ball fields at an as-yet -undetermined site.

Significant Settlements

Barney Lovelace said, “We are very pleased with the outcome. The significant monetary settlement and the substantial remediation work to be performed will ensure that our environment is preserved for all to enjoy.”

Public Meeting

The City Council of the City of Decatur, AL, and the Morgan County Commission will each hold a special meeting on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, at 6:00 P.M. at Ingalls Harbor Pavilion, 802-A Wilson Street NW, Decatur, AL 35601.

The purpose of the meeting is to consider the settlement with the 3M Company and settlements in the pending cases of James St. John, et al. vs. 3M Company, et al., Case No. CV-2002-000408, in the Circuit Court of Morgan County, Alabama and Tennessee Riverkeeper, Inc. vs. 3M Company, et al., Case No. CV-16-HGD-1029-NE, in the United States District Court, Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division. Information about these settlements will be presented at this meeting and information also can be found at, which will go live after 2:00 p.m. CST today.

From 3M:

3M has reached a collaborative agreement to resolve ongoing litigation and negotiations related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) near 3M’s Decatur, Ala. facility with parties including The City of Decatur and Morgan County, the plaintiffs in St. John, and the Tennessee Riverkeeper organization.

Through these agreements, subject to final approval, 3M will support activities to address PFAS that 3M manufactured or disposed of, as well as to enhance the quality of life for Decatur residents. 3M's contribution to the total amount is reflected in the company's previously disclosed financial reserves for litigation contingent liabilities.

“We appreciate the importance of our relationship with our neighbors in Decatur. Through this agreement, we can resolve these matters and take action that will strengthen Decatur for the future – a great thing for 3M and this community.” said Michelle Howell, Decatur Site Director. “We will continue to take collaborative action for communities where we live and work, our employees, and their friends and families.”

City of Decatur, Decatur Utilities, Morgan County

The parties are pleased to have reached this agreement, through which 3M will contribute approximately $99M to support initiatives that will build a stronger environment and community in Decatur and the surrounding area. Key provisions of the agreement include:

· Investing in the future for the Decatur community. 3M will support several initiatives that will improve the quality of life and the overall environment for Decatur.

This includes community redevelopment and recreation projects by the City, County, and Decatur Utilities to develop and construct a new public recreational facility, ball fields, and other projects in the City of Decatur.

· Addressing legacy production. 3M will continue to address PFAS at sites where 3M disposed of PFAS, including the Morgan County, Brookhaven, Old Moulton Road and Deer Springs landfills.

This will include funding the installation of a synthetic liner and cap in portions of the Morgan County Landfill, as has been done effectively at other locations in Decatur. Furthermore, 3M will pay the City and County to reimburse costs previously incurred related to PFAS remediation.

Tennessee Riverkeeper, St. John et al.

In addition, 3M is resolving litigation between 3M and the Tennessee Riverkeeper organization, as well as the plaintiffs in the St. John matter. The agreements complement the Interim Consent Order that 3M entered with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in 2020. Key provisions of these settlement agreements include:

Continuing to improve the local environment. Through its agreement with the Tennessee Riverkeeper and St. John plaintiffs, 3M will continue environmental characterization. This work will include sampling of environmental media, such as soil, ground water, and sediment regarding the potential presence of PFAS at the 3M Decatur facility and legacy disposal sites. Once this sampling has been completed, 3M will submit a report on its findings and plans to appropriately address these materials to ADEM in accordance with the Interim Consent Order. Plaintiffs will have the opportunity for input. 3M will then work with ADEM to support execution of any appropriate remedial actions.

The parties worked cooperatively over many months to reach this negotiated agreement without resorting to additional lengthy and expensive litigation, under the leadership of, Mayor Bowling, Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long, Decatur Utilities General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Ray Hardin, and many others.

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