Our firm is working with local counsel to investigate claims for Alabama farmers and other property owners affected by contaminated sewage sludge used as fertilizer in Franklin, Lawrence and Morgan counties. Wastewater treatment plants often provide their sludge, known as “biosolids,” to farmers for use as fertilizer. The practice can benefit both farmers and wastewater treatment plants alike. The farmers receive low-cost or free fertilizer and the wastewater treatment plants reduce disposal costs by avoiding landfill or incineration fees. But this hasn’t been the case in the Decatur, Alabama, area where this arrangement has been the subject of recent concern.
The biosolids and the fields where they were applied were found to contain elevated levels of perfluorochemicals (PFCs), specifically PFOA and PFOS. These chemicals are precursors to Teflon, Scotchguard, and other non-stick consumer goods, and EPA’s Science Advisory Panel recommends that the EPA classify PFOA as a likely human carcinogen, with numerous studies linking it to various cancers. The EPA has requested information from 14 companies in the Decatur area which may use PFCs in their operations, including 3M, Japanese-based chemical manufacturer Daikin, Toray Flurofibers, and Biological Processors of Alabama, Inc.
In November of 2008, the EPA notified Decatur Utilities that the fields where the utility applied biosolids had alarmingly high levels of PFCs. Decatur Utility immediately stopped supplying biosolids to farms and instead diverted the sludge to local landfills, increasing its disposal costs approximately $50,000 per month. This additional cost could cause rate increases for the utility’s customers.
As a result of the biosolid contamination in Decatur, EPA issued a health advisory in January 2009 that limits the amount of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. To date, drinking water sampling in the Decatur area reveals that PFC levels are below the EPA limit; however, two private wells and numerous grazing ponds contain PFC levels much higher than the EPA limits. The EPA advises people who are concerned that their wells are contaminated to use bottled water or point-of-use filters, installed at the faucet, with granulated, activated carbon.
In addition to EPA water sampling, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently purchased cattle in the area in order to conduct tissue samples. The USDA is testing to ensure that beef does not contain high levels of PFCs, and results should be available in May 2009. Beasley Allen lawyers will continue to monitor the situation in Decatur on behalf of those affected by the contamination. Our lawyers have successfully represented clients in PFC cases nationwide. If you need additional information on this subject, contact Rhon Jones or David Byrne in our firm at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or David.Byrne@beasleyallen.com.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.