DECATUR, Ala – The city of Decatur sits at the banks of the Tennessee River. Normally a source of pride, the town’s nickname is the ‘River City’.
“Its everything. It’s where people come down here and visit it all the time. Even as a child I would walk down, I live a few blocks away,” said Karen Thomas. “Just about every day I come by the river in some capacity. So, it’s a huge part of Decatur.”
But now concerns about what’s in the river are mounting after WHNT News 19 discovered 3M discharged toxic chemicals into the Tennessee River and that the State of Alabama was notified of those releases since at least 2014.
But people who live in Decatur didn’t find out until we reported it last week.
Thomas is the president of the environmental nonprofit group Tennessee Riverkeeper. She’s upset that environmental regulators didn’t notify the public.
“You want to feel like everybody is on the same page of protecting our ecosystem and human health and to learn that, that not been at the prime consideration is very disappointing,” said Thomas.
In a letter to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management dated in April, 3M disclosed that it released FBSA and possibly FBSEE, chemicals which are both illegal to put into water.
A consent order, which the 3M’s letter says was established in 2009 with the EPA, indicates the company is prohibited from releasing the chemicals because the agency is still working to determine if they pose a risk of injury to health or the environment.
WHNT News 19 was able to obtain other state records this week that shows the State of Alabama had been alerted for years and did not stop the continued release of the toxic chemical into the Tennessee River.
Even though Thomas wishes it wasn’t true she and others were shocked to find out this happened.
“It’s not surprising,” Thomas said.
“I mean completely unsurprised, there’s the 3M thing, there’s the Tyson thing, we have BP oil spill,” said Daniel Moore, a concerned resident.
But now that Decatur residents know about it they are hoping community leaders get involved.
“I think that the city officials continue to get involved and be involved be transparent about what’s going on with Decatur.”
“Cleaning it up, doing what we can, that’s I think the main concern,” said Tyler Jones, a small business owner.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement to WHNT News 19.
“While Alabama law does not require permits for release of FBSA and FBSEE, we have asked ADEM to keep us advised of monitoring efforts of these chemicals in the Tennessee River.”