Our firm continues to investigate claims on behalf of Alabama farmers and other property owners affected by contaminated sewage sludge in fertilizer in Lawrence, Morgan, and Limestone counties. Local wastewater treatment plants often provide human sewage sludge to farmers, who then utilize the sludge as a fertilizer on their properties. In the Decatur area, environmental officials recently found that the sludge (conveniently named “biosolids”) contains high levels of perfluorochemicals (PFC) – specifically perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctyl sulfonate (PFOS).
These chemicals are used as fire-fighting foams, grease and water repellants, and precursors to Teflon, Scotchguard, and other non-stick consumer goods. PFOA’s are considered toxicants, likely human carcinogens and are linked to birth defects, increased cancer rates, and changes to lipid levels and the immune system in high exposure cases. 3M recently halted its production of PFOS due to concerns of the chemical’s persistence in the environment and long-term health and environmental effects.
The EPA has requested information from numerous Decatur area industries that use PFC chemicals in their operations. According to a 2007 article in the American Christian Society Journal, “Environmental Science and Technology,” 3M produced PFC chemicals at its Decatur plant from 1999 to 2000, and until 2004 through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Dyneon LLC. Furthermore, Japanese-based chemical manufacturer Daiken and Toray Flurofibers use PFCs in their operations in and around the Decatur area. In January 2008, a spokesman for Daiken stated the company would cease using PFOAs to manufacture water and oil repellant products by 2012.
Each of these companies reportedly discharges waste and water into the Decatur Utilities wastewater treatment plant. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the manufacturers notified the EPA in 2007 that it had unknowingly discharged PFCs into the DU wastewater treatment plant. This action prompted the EPA to investigate whether biosolids originating from the treatment plant contained elevated levels of PFCs. Upon further analysis the EPA notified the DU wastewater treatment plant in November 2008 that fields where DU applied the sewage sludge from its treatment process contained alarmingly high PFCs. DU immediately stopped supplying biosolids to farms and instead diverted the sewage sludge to landfills.
The EPA has collected and performed testing of public drinking water, private wells, ponds and soil near fields with high levels of biosolid application from November 2008 through February 2009. In 2008, results from the EPA Office of Research found relatively high levels of PFCs from two biosolid application sites as well as from the DU facility. Although Decatur drinking water PFC samples are below the EPA limit, high PFC levels were discovered in two private wells and numerous grazing ponds. Additionally, the USDA and the FDA are conducting investigations on what the contamination means for livestock and food products in the Decatur area.
In response to the contamination findings in Decatur, the EPA issued a health advisory in January 2009 that limits the amount of PFOS and PFOA in drinking water. 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. On June 2nd, 2009, the EPA hosted a public meeting in Moulton, Alabama, to inform residents about the status of the investigation. In addition to the FDA and participants at the meeting, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Alabama Departments of Environmental Management, Agriculture and Industries, and Public Health, and Decatur Utilities were present. The parties reported at the public meeting that additional sampling results would be forthcoming.
Lawyers in our firm have successfully represented clients in PFC cases nationwide. We will continue to monitor the situation in Decatur on behalf of those affected by the contamination. 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.
Source: Environmental News Source
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