Environmental group discovers site with toxic chemicals in Decatur

The Tennessee Riverkeeper took samples near Danville Road and Sansouci Cave Road. The group found high levels of PFAS.

Posted: Feb 19, 2020 8:37 PM

An environmental non-profit claimed there are more toxic chemicals at another what appears to be a former dump site in Decatur. 

The Tennessee Riverkeeper said it comes from samples near Danville Road and Sansouci Cave Road. The group said it found significant amounts of perflouroaklyl substances, or PFAS. It is known as the "forever chemical." 

David Whiteside is the director of the Tennessee Riverkeeper said a concerned citizen who use to live near the site came to them with his concerns. 

"Fortunately he contacted us, and his instincts were right," Whiteside said. 

Whiteside started the organization 10 years ago to help protect the environment. Five years in, he first heard about Decatur's problems with forever chemical or PFAS. 

Now, he is concerned because of what he said are undisclosed dump sites across this area filled with hazardous chemicals. 

"When we find new dump sites like this that were previously undisclosed, it's terrifying because we can never clean this problem up unless we know where all the dumps are and where the hot spots occur," Whiteside said.

He wants more over sight forcing companies responsible for PFAS to disclose possible contaminated areas. 

"Unfortunately that hasn't been the case, and we're having to find that out through whistleblowers and through our own testing and that's troublesome," Whiteside said. 

His testing has caught the city's attention. Attorney Barney Lovelace represents the city in two lawsuits, against chemical company 3M. In a statement to WAAY31, Lovelace said he notified 3M of the claim and expects the company to investigate it.

The city has also hired an environmental testing firm. 

"We're going to test now, and hopefully have results within a week," Mayor Tab Bowling said. 

Full statement from Barney Lovelace:

  • We learned about this yesterday afternoon. We were not aware of any dumping of these chemicals or a dump site near this location. Yesterday on behalf of the City and County we commissioned an environmental testing firm to also take test samples from that same stream. That sampling will be conducted today but it will be several weeks before we know any results. We have also notified 3M of this situation and informed them that we expected 3M to immediately investigate this claim and remediate any presence of those chemicals in that area. The City and County continue to be proactive and take all actions they can to make sure that all issues with these chemicals are addressed and remediated to eliminate any risk to the public.

"These chemicals will never go away unless we force the responsible party to remove them, and we need help from the public to find out where they are," Whiteside said.

People in the area told WAAY31 they are just now learning about this discovery and want to know who is responsible. 

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