3M in Legal Trouble, Again


By Lynn Fugaro, Staff Writer

Most of us have used a 3M product at some time or another and know that the products manufactured by this company are helpful around the house and office. Unfortunately, 3M is in a lot of legal trouble (again), and people are getting very sick, possibly due to contaminants from an illegal dump site near its Decatur, Alabama plant. Allegedly, toxins from the dumpsite are leaking into groundwater into local bodies of water and those contaminants have ended up in the Tennessee River, according to a federal lawsuit filed in mid-September.

This most recent lawsuit is brought against 3M and its subsidiary Dyneon LLC, Daikin America Inc. and the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority and claims that 3M, its subsidiary and the water authority knew of the hazardous chemicals associated with certain products manufactured at the Decatur plant yet continued to dispose of these dangerous chemicals leading to contamination of the Tennessee River and exposing thousands of people to toxins that have been associated with cancer and other serious illnesses.

Dangerous Chemicals and Terminal Illness

The federal lawsuit, filed by Deanna Arnold, who was diagnosed in August 2017 with kidney cancer, alleges West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority knew its drinking water was unsafe for years before taking steps to remove the chemicals; the toxins traveled 13 miles from the dumpsite and entered the Tennessee River’s water supply. The lawsuit states that surface water near the dumpsite tested positive for high levels of the industrial chemicals “perfluorooctane sulfonate” (PFOS) and “perfluorooctanic acid” (PFOA).

Arnold’s complaint alleges her terminal cancer is due to elevated levels of PFOA in her blood following years of consuming contaminated West Morgan-East Lawrence water. The lawsuit further alleges that 3M knew that dumping the hazardous chemicals in that way contaminated the Tennessee River water, which was used for public consumption, but 3M failed to warn her of the presence of these toxins until she had sustained “irreparable injuries.”

Water Company Not At Fault?

The lawyer for the water company named in the lawsuit states his client (West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority) is not the villain here but a hero; he asserts the water company, for many years, has been just another victim of the corporation’s lies. The proof according to the attorney? In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a health advisory specifying the threshold levels at which PFOS and PFOA were unsafe, and the advisory instructed utilities to immediately notify their customers if levels of the chemicals in drinking water exceeded the amounts indicated; West Morgan-East Lawrence did notify its customers that its PFOA and PFOS levels exceeded EPA’s recommended threshold.

Because conventional filtration systems do not remove these dangerous chemicals, the Tennessee water authority issued a bond to pay for a $4 million temporary granular activated carbon system.

Health Risks Associated with PFOS and PFOA

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports that health risks associated with the chemicals include:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Testicular cancer
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Liver damage
  • High cholesterol
  • Thyroid disease
  • Asthma
  • Decreased fertility
  • Decreased birth weight
  • Decreased response to vaccines

Early in 2018, 3M agreed to pay $850 million to settle an environmental lawsuit filed by the state of Minnesota alleging that improper disposal of the chemicals resulted in contaminated water supplies. According to a 3M spokesperson, 3M no longer uses or manufactures PFOA or PFOS and has spent over $184 million to reduce levels of the chemicals in the environment.

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