Pollution of the Coosa and Conasauga rivers, which run through eastern Alabama and Northwestern Georiga, is reportedly the subject of a lawsuit filed by a Gadsen, Alabama water company. The lawsuit, which targets 32 carpet manufacturing companies and suppliers, alleges that the companies knowingly released chemicals into the rivers, which resulted in “substantial economic and consequential damage” for the water company.
The chemicals at issue, perfluorooctane sulfate and perfluorooctanioc acid, are apparently used to make carpet stain-resistant, though they have been linked to cancer and other illnesses. Among the costs sought by the water company are expenses connected to the future installation and operation of a filtration system to remove the chemicals, as well as lost profits and sales as many customers have left the company to pursue other alternatives for drinking water.
The pollution has been going on for some time, as far back as 10 years, and the Environmental Agency has been tracking the concentration of the chemicals more recently. In May, the EPA found unacceptably high levels of the chemicals, and area residents were warned about the matter. Regulators have not yet taken action against the Gadsen water utility, but the situation is continuing to be monitored.
The litigation is a good example of what can happen to water supplies when industry fails to abide by its environmental obligations. Industrial activity can have serious negative environmental consequences, on both water and other natural resources, and this can result in harm not only to private individuals, but also to other businesses and industries. In our next post, we’ll consider this issue further.