EPA: 3M discharged chemicals without required permit, took years to disclose reporting errors

By Chelsea Brentzel | WHNT News 19 | September 26, 2019

Read full article by Chelsea Brentzel (WHNT News 19)

“DECATUR, Ala. –  An Environmental Protection Agency inspection report is shedding more light on the type, volume and company management of chemical discharges by Decatur’s 3M plant into the Tennessee River.

The report found high levels of perfluorinated chemicals from discharge sites, noted 3M lacks a state discharge permit for a chemical that it’s already been discharging and pointed out 3M waited three years to inform regulators about hundreds of instances of incorrect discharge information it had filed.

The report was sent to 3M by federal regulators on September 19, the same day the plant halted some of its fluoropolymer manufacturing processes. The company said then the decision to halt that production was part of its ongoing work with EPA and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to address compliance matters at the Decatur facility…

The report follows a June 24-26 inspection by the EPA and was made public this week when filed on ADEM’s online records system.

The inspection addressed 3M’s discharge of perfluorinated chemicals. Federal inspectors tested for more than two dozen types of chemicals and compounds in the Decatur plant’s wastewater and surface water, noting sampling results show high levels of perfluorinated compounds at each sampling site.

The test results show high levels of the chemicals FBSA and FBSEE in the plant’s wastewater in June, despite the company telling the EPA  that it paused FBSA and FBSEE manufacturing processes in April…

The EPA report includes discharge levels of chemicals PFOA and PFOS.  3M produced PFOA and PFOS for decades before announcing it would stop making the chemicals in the early 2000s. The chemicals were used in manufacturing products like Teflon and Scotchgard. PFOA and PFOS do not break down in the environment easily…

The WMEL water authority installed a carbon filtration system in October 2016.

3M settled with the water authority in a federal drinking water contamination case for $35 million in April 2019. The non-profit water authority is scheduled to break ground on a reverse osmosis water treatment system soon and expects to have it online by early 2021. WMEL officials say the reverse osmosis will filter out all types of perfluorinated chemicals.

The amount and types of chemicals weren’t the only issues found in the recent EPA inspection. Regulators noted discharge reporting inaccuracies by 3M in Decatur.

Federal regulators pointed out 3M found 289 inaccuracies with its Tennessee River discharge reports from March 2015 through April 2016. The report states 3M found the inaccuracies during an internal review in the spring and summer of 2016. However, inspectors write that 3M did not notify regulators of the inaccuracies until three years later in June 2019. The reports also show levels of other more than a dozen other perfluorinated chemicals in 3M’s discharge…

The revelations come as 3M in ongoing mediation in two north Alabama lawsuits with a November 1 deadline. The lawsuits filed by Tennessee Riverkeeper in 2016 and a class action of citizens in 2002 are related to its chemicals.”

This content provided by the PFAS Project.