3M and Alabama's carpet industry is facing backlash after stain-blocking chemicals made their way into the state's water supply. The company, along with carpet and chemical manufacturers, are being hit with lawsuits over the controversial water issue.
Alabama water utilities have filed two lawsuits. Other water systems throughout the United States have also filed or are considering filing suits over water contaminated by the PFOS and PFOA chemicals, according to Bloomberg.
The Centre and Gadsden water systems allege that the source of contamination is in Dalton, Georgia, known as the "carpet capital." Manufacturers in the city add perfluorinated chemicals to their carpets for stain and water resistance. Trace amounts of these chemicals have made their way into their wastewater.
The suit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cherokee County on May 15 on behalf of the water and sewer board in Centre. The suit names DuPont, 3M and over 30 carpet manufacturers, including Shaw Industries and Beaulieu of America. The complaint is looking to recover damages for the cost of upgrading the filtration system.
A nearly identical suit was filed in September 2016 on behalf of Gadsen's water system. Both cities report PFOS and PFOA concentrations that exceed the 0.07 parts per billion limit advised by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The suit points to studies that indicate exposure to said chemicals can cause serious health problems, including cancer and thyroid issues.
At least two other lawsuits have been filed against 3M over their manufacturing operations in Decatur, Alabama. The suits have been brought forth by West Morgan East Lawrence Water Authority and the Tennessee Riverkeeper.
Both PFOA and PFOS were commonly used in manufacturing, but 3M stopped making the chemicals over a decade ago. Since 2006, the company has been working on remediation near its Decatur site through an agreement with the EPA.
Lawyers for 3M say the plaintiffs' claims lack merit. They argue that the company's plant in Decatur is more than 150 miles from Dalton, the alleged source of contamination.
Shaw Industries previously acknowledged that it used PFOS and PFOA in its manufacturing, and that traces of the chemicals made their way from the wastewater system into a nearby river.
Shaw denied that the chemicals presented a health risk.
In a court filing, Shaw denied that its operations led to downstream water contamination.
Still, lawsuits over alleged health issues caused by PFOS and PFOA continue to mount. Law firms across the country are working on personal injury cases involving exposure to these chemicals.
Lawyers say the chemicals remain in the water supply for years, and local water systems do not have the resources to resolve the problem.
DuPont and 3M are both facing other lawsuits over PFOS and PFOA. DuPont recently reached a $670 million settlement to resolve over 3,000 personal injury lawsuits in Ohio and West Virginia. The plaintiffs in those cases claimed that the company dumped PFOA and PFOS into their water supplies, which caused them to develop cancer and other serious illnesses.
3M has also been hit with a lawsuit by Minnesota's attorney general.