Rome filed a civil lawsuit this week against over 30 companies that own or operate carpet-related facilities in Dalton.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Floyd County Superior Court, contends the companies — including 3M, DuPont, Shaw Industries and others — knew the perfluorinated compounds used in their manufacturing were toxic. The chemicals, namely PFOA and PFOS, migrated downstream in the Oostanaula River, the main source of the city’s water.
Back in 2016, the Bruce Hamler Water Treatment Facility at 1 Blossom Hill Road underwent emergency but temporary precautions to prevent PFC buildup in the water supply, such as granular activated carbon filters and blending water from Etowah River with the water from Oostanaula.
PFCs levels have consistently met or exceeded the legal limit of water contaminants set by May 2016 health advisories issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
This has and continues to cost Rome tens of millions of dollars.
“We need a longterm sustainable withdraw source ... right now, we’re only using secondary sources,” City Manager Sammy Rich said.
City Attorney Andy Davis stated that “the Etowah cannot sustain the needs of the city” and that “millions” of gallons of water have been depleted.
The lawsuit states that in order to combat PFCs and eliminate the chemicals from Rome’s water supply, the city must install a new and permanent filtration system that will meet EPA health advisories and provide safe water for the public.
“This is about the future of Rome and the ability to use the Oostanaula,” Davis said.
What to know about perfluorinated chemicals
Perfluorinated chemicals, or “PFCs” as they’re referred to in the lawsuit as, are used in manufacturing processes, specifically to apply water, stain and grease resistance to their carpet and other textile products.
According to the lawsuit:
PFCs have been known to be absorbed through the liver and kidneys of humans, resulting in a buildup of the chemicals over long periods of time. According to section 56 of the lawsuit, PFCs have been linked to several diseases, such as immunotoxicity, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesteral and even cancer.
One PFC in particular, PFOA, has been linked to a triad of tumors: leydig/testicular, liver and pancreatic. PFCs also pose a health risk to pregnant women and repeated exposure can cause a build up of PFCs, specifically PFOS, in the umbilical cord blood of babies.
The lawsuit also quotes a 1979 study conducted at Wheeler Dam, which is 26 miles downstream of a 3M plant in Decatur, Alabama. That study stated that the chemicals “bioaccumulate” in fish.