DECATUR, Ala. – Jan. 13, 2020 – 3M has announced it will begin its preparations for a preliminary soil and groundwater investigation at the City of Decatur’s former Brookhaven landfill. This marks the latest step in the company’s investigation process, which was announced in late 2019.
Drilling activities and sample collection will begin the week of Jan. 20 and continue over a period of weeks. The samples will be collected and tested in accordance with a work plan submitted to, and reviewed by, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). Both the City of Decatur and the Decatur Board of Education will observe 3M’s sampling and arrange for independent analysis of the samples.
Drinking water in the area comes from Decatur Utilities, rather than private wells that draw groundwater. According to Decatur Utilities’ website, “Tests for [PFAS] in our water supply have been non-detect, or at near non-detectable levels.”
Below is a set of frequently asked questions and answers about the investigation for the general public. Area residents with further questions may call ADEM at 334-260-4545 or 3M at 651-736-0876.
Questions and Answers
Q. When are investigation activities expected to begin?
A. Groundwater monitoring well installation activities are scheduled to begin the week of Jan. 20, 2020. Active drilling activities will be completed in 4-6 weeks followed by 1-2 weeks of well pad installation and well development.
Q. What will the work schedule be?
A. Investigation activities/drilling will be performed Monday – Friday. Contractors will arrive around 7 a.m. to begin daily preparations. Active drilling will take place from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Q. What is being stored in the roll-off box and totes?
A. All soil and groundwater generated during investigation activities are being stored in the roll-off box and totes. Upon completion of the investigation activities, the soil and water will be sampled and analyzed for proper characterization and disposal.
Q. What precautions will be taken to protect the public during the investigation activities?
A. During drilling activities, the work area will be delineated with cones and caution tape to keep people out of the work zone. Worker personal protective equipment (PPE) will consist of a hard hat, safety glasses, gloves and steel toed boots. The breathing zone will be monitored with a photoionization detector (PID) to screen for volatile organic compounds. If elevated levels are detected, the work will stop and the need for additional precautions will be assessed. PFAS are not volatile compounds and are not expected to become airborne during the drilling process.
Q. Do these activities pose any danger to residents near the work area?
A. We have no reason to believe the investigative or drilling activities pose any danger to those outside of the work area. Only authorized personnel should enter the work area and should wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
Q. Is my water safe to drink?
A. Drinking water for the residential neighborhoods surrounding the Brookhaven Site is supplied by Decatur Utilities, not private wells. According to Decatur Utilities’ website, “Tests for [PFAS] in our water supply have been non-detect, or at near non-detectable levels.”
Residents with questions can visit decaturutilities.com/water or call 256-552-1400.
Q. Who is involved in the sampling and investigation work?
A. The sampling and investigation work are being conducted by environmental engineering firm GHD on behalf of 3M. Investigation work plans were submitted to ADEM for review prior to initiating work and ADEM will receive all data from ongoing and future investigations. Both the City of Decatur and the Decatur Board of Education will observe 3M’s sampling and arrange for independent analysis of the samples.
Q. I/my child attended the Brookhaven School. Was I exposed to PFAS? What does this mean for my health/my child’s health?
A. The detection of PFAS in soil and groundwater does not mean there was exposure to PFAS inside the Brookhaven School. These compounds are not volatile and would not migrate from the soil or groundwater to indoor air.
The vast body of scientific evidence, which consists of decades of research conducted by independent third parties and 3M, does not show that PFOS or PFOA cause harm in people at current or historical levels typically found in the environment.
Q. Is it safe to use the Aquadome facility?
A. The detection of PFAS in soil and groundwater does not mean there was exposure to PFAS inside the Aquadome facility. These compounds are not volatile and would not migrate from the soil or groundwater to indoor air. The Aquadome pool is filled using municipal water supplied by Decatur Utilities, not groundwater.
Q. Is it safe for my children to play on the ball fields?
A. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “Studies have shown that only a small amount of PFAS can get into your body through your skin.” Therefore, playing in the fields should not increase exposure to PFAS.
Q. Are there any other properties 3M is looking at in Morgan County?
A. 3M is researching historical disposal sites in Morgan and Lawrence counties that may include 3M waste, including Deer Springs, Old Moulton Road/Mud Tavern, County Road 222 and Johnson landfills.