West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority settles lawsuit with 3M

The lawsuit accused 3M and others of contaminating the drinking water in the Tennessee River with potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

Posted: Apr 4, 2019 10:35 PM
Updated: Apr 5, 2019 6:50 PM

The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water & Sewer Authority board of directors have agreed to settle their lawsuit against 3M in Decatur. The lawsuit accused 3M and others of contaminating the drinking water in the Tennessee River with potentially cancer-causing chemicals. 

The director of the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water & Sewer Authority, Don Sims, said he cannot comment about the settlement until they and 3M release a joint statement.

On top of the approved settlement with 3M, the board of the water authority also voted to borrow $30 million to build a reverse osmosis filtration system. Director Sims would not say if the borrowing of the money for the filtration system is linked to the settlement.

On Thursday, the board also voted to repeal the rate increase of $9 that would have been phased in over three years. Sims could not say if this is related to the approved settlement.

One man who lives around the corner from the water authority said he sees all of these developments as a good thing.

"It's better than not hearing anything and, yeah, the rates not going up, that'll be fantastic. I mean, who wants to pay more?" said Keith Waugh.

“We are thrilled that 3M is stepping up and that they are doing the right thing," Shanon Robertson added. "This is exactly what should’ve been done from the very beginning.”

Shannon Robertson is a West Morgan-East Lawrence Water & Sewer Authority customer and says she knows all about their lawsuit with 3M.

After hearing a settlement was agreed upon on Thursday between 3M and the water authority, Robertson was relieved.

“It takes away the worry that we have about any kind of safety issues," she said.

That’s because, for several months, Robertson and her family felt they needed to limit the water they used in their own home, due to the potential of cancer-causing chemicals.

“We had bottled water. We looked into the whole-house filtration system," she said. "We brushed our teeth with bottled water.”

The West Morgan-East Lawrence Water & Sewer Authority implemented a carbon filtration system and tested for chemicals on a regular basis, but Robertson still worried that some chemicals weren’t being detected.

For a while, there was a plan to increase customers’ rates by $3 each year, for three years, to help pay for a $25 million reverse osmosis filtration system that would strip the water of virtually any questionable compounds. But that’s no longer the case.

The reverse osmosis filtration system is still expected to be implemented soon, but Robertson is grateful to hear that she won’t have to pay for it--saying she hopes that 3M will.

“If a person or an organization causes something to happen, then they should be the ones to pay for it--not the rate payers," she said. "And, so, this is extremely good news for the customers of West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority.”

WAAY 31 reached out to 3M for a statement regarding the settlement, but we're still waiting to hear back.

We wanted to know how much the settlement will be, but we were told 3M and the water authority will release a joint statement in the near future.

In 2018, the water authority also settled their lawsuit against Daikin in Decatur for $4 million.

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