- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - A water system that had to tell its 10,000 customers not to drink from their taps has brought chemical contamination down to federally acceptable levels by diluting it with water from another north Alabama utility, officials said Tuesday.

Even so, weeks of testing will continue before water supplied by the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority can be declared safe for consumption.

The authority draws from the Tennessee River, where sampling found high concentrations of perfluorooactanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate in the water. These chemicals, commonly called PFOA and PFOS, are commonly used in fabrics, packaging and coatings for cookware.

Studies indicate that exposure to certain levels of PFOA and PFOS may result in problems including low birth weight babies, accelerated puberty, cancer, liver damage and immune-system effects, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The authority is suing 3M Co., a leading manufacturer in the Tennessee Valley, as well as the corporation’s Dyneon division and Daikin America Inc., which makes fluoropolymers and other chemical products. The authority claims these companies polluted the river; 3M says it has followed regulations and caused no proven harm.

The EPA recently tightened its restrictions, obligating water systems with combined levels of 70 parts per trillion of these chemicals in drinking water to tell customers about potential health risks and work to reduce chemical concentrations.

Authority Director Don Sims said the utility is blending its supply with water from Decatur Utilities. Authority attorney Cary McWhorter told the Decatur Daily (https://bit.ly/25Wgs8R) recent samples found no detectable level of PFOS and 25 parts per trillion of PFOA.

“We will take, over a period of two weeks, numerous samples to see if we can maintain levels below the advisory amount,” before determining whether the blended water is safe for consumption, Sims told The Associated Press.

The safety advisory sent customers scrambling for bottled water. Officials have said that a temporary filtration system won’t be ready until at least September, and a permanent solution may not be in place for up to three years.

Five Morgan County churches announced plans to distribute bottled water twice a week to affected customers, the Decatur Daily reported (bit.ly/1ZNXeLB), replacing volunteer fire departments as distribution locations.

But supplies are limited, so only people “in desperate need” should seek water at the churches, said Morgan County Emergency Management Director Eddie Hicks.


Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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