Gadsden Water Works settles lawsuit with carpet, chemical companies over pollution

After jury selection began for a trial in Etowah County Circuit Court, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit brought by the Gadsden Water Works and Sewer Board accusing several companies of putting dangerous chemicals in the river that supplies water for the City of Gadsden.

According to an order from Circuit Judge William Ogletree, all claims in the lawsuit have been resolved, and all terms of the monetary settlement, including previously existing settlements, "shall remain confidential" between Gadsden Water and defendants 3M Company, Shaw Industries Inc., Mohawk Carpet LLC, Mohawk Industries Inc. and Industrial Chemicals Inc.

The lawsuit claimed the defendants were responsible for putting perfluorooctane sulfonate and perflurooctanic acid into the city's raw water supply. That caused Gadsden Water to have higher readings of those man-made chemicals, according to press release at the time the suit was filed by the Beasley Allen Law Firm.

After the EPA issued new lifetime exposure limits for those chemicals in May 2016, eight water systems in Alabama received advisory warnings, including Gadsden's. The advisory focused on PFOAs and PFOs, the man-made chemical compounds used in the manufacture of non-stick, stain-resistant and waterproofing coatings on fabric, cookware, firefighting foam and other consumer products, the lawsuit said. According to attorneys for Gadsden Water, the EPA says exposure to the chemicals even in trace amounts, can promote serious health problems over time.

"The Gadsden Water Works and Sewer Board and its customers did not put these chemicals in the water. This lawsuit says very clearly that they should not be responsible for removing them either," attorney Rhon Jones said.

GWW General Manager Chad Hare said the agency is pleased the lawsuit has been resolved.

"This is monumental for customers of Gadsden Water and all of Etowah County as the mutually agreed upon settlement will result in the construction of what will be the State of Alabama’s largest reverse osmosis treatment facility to provide our customers with PFAS-free drinking water," Hare said.

"Our customers will not be asked to pay for the treatment required to remove a chemical that they did not place there," he said. "For the City of Gadsden, this settlement represents a bright and clean future for economic development and growth."

Hare said the authority is aggressively addressing construction of the treatment facility, having voted already to authorize the him to solicit proposals from qualified engineering consulting firms for the design, bid, and construction administration of the new RO facility.

"The Water Works Board thanks its customers for their patience during this legal process," Hare said.

Gadsden Water continues to update its website ( when any new information is obtained regarding PFAS.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Municipal water works, companies accused of pollution, settle lawsuit