Decatur, 3M reach $98M settlement in chemical fray

Long-standing legal battles raged over PFAS pollution

3M Co. has reached a settlement with the City of Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities in a long-running lawsuit over effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) near the Decatur plant.

The settlement also covers a separate suit against 3M by the Tennessee Riverkeeper organization.

The agreements are subject to final approval by all parties.

“We appreciate the importance of our relationship with our neighbors in Decatur. Through this agreement, we can resolve these matters and take action that will strengthen Decatur for the future — a great thing for 3M and this community,” said Michelle Howell, Decatur site director. “We will continue to take collaborative action for communities where we live and work, our employees, and their friends and families.”

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Although the two lawsuits were filed independently — the city’s in Circuit Court of Morgan County and Riverkeeper’s in U.S. District Court — the mediation and settlement cover both cases.

In announcing the agreement, the City of Decatur wrote: “In an unusual move, the two cases were ordered into mediation together, resulting in settlements that work together for the good of the residents of Decatur and Morgan County, as well as the other plaintiffs in both cases — under the laws that govern each type of case.”

Key terms of the settlement include:

  • $9.2 million for past PFAs costs
  • $7 million for future sludge disposal costs for Decatur Utilities
  • $25 million payment to Decatur, Morgan County and Decatur Utilities
  • $22.2 million payment to cap cells 2-11 at the Decatur Morgan County Regional Landfill
  • $35 million for a recreation facility and ball fields to replace the Aquadome complex.

The agreement also requires 3M to pay for investigation of PFAS contamination in groundwater at the landfill; to treat groundwater, if so required by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, and for related remediation at the site, if required by state and federal environmental agencies.

“I appreciate the work of all parties to bring these lawsuits to a close,” said Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling. “We are ready now to look to the future. 3M has long been an involved corporate citizen here and we appreciate how they’ve stepped up to help remedy issues related to chemicals no longer produced in the U.S. This settlement will fund improvements that will make the environment in Decatur and Morgan County healthier. We are pleased that 3M is funding the development of a replacement rec center that adds a quality-of-life benefit for the whole city.”

Each of the concerned agencies will meet on Oct. 26 to consider the settlement. More information is available at

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