Carpet Makers Want Pollution Trials Moved out of Alabama

Alabama Supreme Court hears arguments on environmental suits

Courthouse News reports that the lawyers for major carpet manufacturers in Georgia told the Alabama Supreme Court their case should be heard in Georgia and not Alabama, where their discharged chemicals flow into the drinking water of Alabama cities.

The water and sewer departments of Centre and Gadsden are suing a raft of carpet manufacturers — the biggest being Mohawk Industries and Shaw Industries — claiming that Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are being dumped into the Coosa River by carpet plants surrounding Dalton Georgia.

Lawyers for the companies argued that in trials in Alabama county court judges improperly denied motions to dismiss the cases. Recent decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court have changed the criteria of what kinds of cases state courts can consider, they claimed.

Company attorneys also claimed the responsibility for the pollution lies with Dalton Utilities – the public utility serving Dalton, Georgia, where the plants are located. Georgia law required the utility to clean the wastewater before discharging it into the environment, they argued.

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Rohn Jones, attorney for the city water utilities, told the court the carpet companies knew the chemicals would flow unchecked past Dalton Utilities’ filtration system.

PFCs were used to make the waterproofing concoction that 3M branded “Scotchguard.” Although the company says it phased out production of its miracle formula in the early 2000s, it is itself a plaintiff in a number of lawsuits in north Alabama, where it has a major plant, in Decatur. The Decatur plant discharges into the Tennessee River, feeding Lake Wheeler. Another, in Dalton, Georgia, discharges into the Coosa River near the Alabama state line, which feeds into the water supply of Gadsden.

The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences says PFCs do not easily break down in the environment and that studies shown they have can affect liver and pancreatic health.

A couple of years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a new drinking water health advisory for PFOs, establishing a limit of 70 parts per trillion, down from 600 parts per trillion. According to Alabama Health Department advisories, some studies indicate that exposure to PFOs over certain levels may result in developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breast fed infants.

Jones, who manages the environmental section of Montgomery-based Beasley Allen P.C., told the judges that 90 percent of the world’s carpets are made in Dalton, Georgia.

Click here for background on the lawsuits

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