For over 50 years, companies that produce per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, knew these so-called forever chemicals posed risks to human health. Yet 3M, Daikin America, Toray Fluorofibers, and other companies in and around Decatur did nothing to limit the release of these chemicals into the environment, where they contaminated local water supplies and wildlife, putting people at risk for cancers and other medical conditions.
McCutcheon & Hamner is actively pursuing Alabama water contamination lawsuits on behalf of customers of multiple water and utility providers in and around Decatur. If you suspect these chemicals have harmed you or a loved one, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today to learn more.
Why Choose McCutcheon & Hamner for Your Alabama Water Contamination Claim?
Founded in 1988, the personal injury lawyers at McCutcheon & Hamner have worked tirelessly for residents of North Alabama harmed by the wrongdoing of others. With over 30 years of combined legal experience, we have a deep connection to our neighbors in Florence, Decatur, Huntsville, and throughout North Alabama.
If you or a loved one was affected by contaminated water caused by the careless actions of major manufacturers like 3M, we can help you seek justice and recover compensation for your medical bills and other losses. Contact us today for your free and confidential consultation.
What Are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used to manufacture nonstick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and textiles, firefighting foams, food wrappers, and many other products since the 1940s.
Often referred to as forever chemicals, many PFAS, including perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), don’t break down in the environment and can accumulate for years.
When released into the environment, these chemicals can seep into soil and contaminate drinking water sources. They can also accumulate in fish and wildlife. People become exposed to PFAS by consuming PFAS-contaminated food or water. These forever chemicals can also build up in the human body over time and cause long-term health effects.
PFAS Health Effects
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS exposure appears to damage reproduction, thyroid function, the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and the liver.
Exposure to PFAS chemicals may also cause:
- Kidney cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Liver cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Ulcerative colitis
- Thyroid disease
In June 2022, the EPA updated drinking water health advisories for PFOA and PFOS based on new science that considers lifetime exposure to the chemicals. That research indicated that some negative health effects may occur with near-zero concentrations of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water — much lower than previously understood when the EPA issued its 2016 health advisories.
The EPA’s 2022 health advisory levels, measured in parts per trillion (ppt), lowered the exposure of PFOA and/or PFOS from 70 ppt to 0.004 ppt and 0.02 ppt, respectively.
Who Is at Risk for Contaminated Water Exposure?
Tests reveal that PFAS chemicals have been present in North Alabama water supplies. Tests conducted by West Morgan-East Lauderdale Water and Sewer Authority on its own water supplies and sent to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management show the water the utility provided to its customers throughout western Morgan County and eastern Lawrence County was contaminated with PFAS chemicals dozens of times higher than the levels the EPA considers safe for humans.
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group independently tested water in cities across the county. In 2019, it found some of the highest levels of PFOA in Decatur — 24 ppt, which was lower than the then-presumed safe limit of 70 ppt, but far greater than the EPA’s revised limit of 0.004 ppt.
McCutchen & Hamner is investigating claims for customers of:
- West Morgan-East Lauderdale Water and Sewer Authority
- Decatur Utilities
- Hartselle Utilities
- Falkville Utilities
- Other utilities downstream from Decatur.
3M’s Role in Contaminating Water in North Alabama
The 3M manufacturing facility in Decatur was a major producer of PFOA and PFOS until about 2002. Because PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment, they are likely still leaching into the Tennessee River and making their way to the Wheeler Reservoir, which supplies four municipal water supplies.
According to EPA documents, in 2007, a local industry notified the EPA that 3M had inadvertently discharged large quantities of PFAS to Decatur Utilities. At that time, the utility was applying biosolids as a fertilizer on about 5,000 acres of privately owned agriculture fields in Lawrence, Morgan, and Limestone counties.
Between 2005 and 2011, EPA and others sampled soil and water in the areas where the biosolids were applied and detected PFOA and PFOS at 110 ppt in the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority. About 100,000 people in North Alabama were advised not to drink tap water due to elevated levels of PFOS. Affected areas included Morgan County, Lawrence County, Etowah County, Fort Payne, Centre, and West Point.
Alabama Contaminated Water Lawsuits and Legal Battles
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against 3M and other companies in the Decatur area, alleging they knowingly allowed PFAS to pollute the water supply and failed to warn residents of the risks.
Plaintiffs include individual residents who claim health problems linked to PFAS exposure, as well as water authorities seeking compensation for cleanup costs and filtration systems.
One major settlement was reached in 2023, with 3M paying $98.4 million to settle claims with water agencies and environmental groups, including $35 million for a new filtration system to remove PFAS from the affected water supply.
However, residents seeking personal injury claims due to health problems linked to PFAS exposure are still pursuing individual water contamination lawsuits against 3M and other companies, including Daikin America and Toray Fluorofibers.
The lawsuits claim the companies knew or should have known that PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS chemicals can contaminate water supplies, accumulate in animals and humans, and cause health problems, including cancer and other diseases. Yet, they continued to release the toxic chemicals into the environment.
Contact the Alabama Water Contamination Lawyers at McCutcheon & Hamner Today
The dedicated team of experienced attorneys at McCutcheon & Hamner is committed to seeking justice for North Alabama residents affected by water contamination. If you or a loved one suffered from the devastating consequences of water contamination, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and other losses.
Contact us today at 256-861-7773 to discuss your case during a free consultation. Let us fight for your rights. Together, we can hold responsible parties accountable for the harm they have caused.