3M Co., one of Morgan County's largest employers, will temporarily suspend some operations at its Decatur chemical plant for environmental reasons, a spokeswoman for the company said today.

“3M takes seriously its environmental compliance obligations and continuously assesses its performance against those obligations and the Company’s commitment to environmental stewardship," the company said in a statement. "While we continue to work with the EPA and ADEM on previously disclosed issues, we have elected to temporarily idle certain manufacturing processes. We will resume these processes as soon as practicable.”

Spokeswoman Fanna Haile-Selassie said no layoffs are expected. The suspension applies only to its chemical plant, not the adjacent film plant.

"At this time, we intend on shifting roles and responsibilities to maintain employment of all affected 3M Decatur workers at the facility," she said.

The Decatur plant has 950 employees.

"Roughly 80 to 100 employees will temporarily shift responsibilities at this time," Haile-Selassie said.

The company has struggled with pollution issues related to its past use and disposal of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. It was sued in late 2015 by West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority, which alleged the contaminants had entered the authority's drinking water supply 13 miles downstream from the Decatur plant. 

3M settled that claim in May for $35 million.

It is also a defendant in dozens of other lawsuits alleging environmental and health problems related to its use and disposal of PFAS.

3M in July committed to evaluate closed waste disposal sites at the former Brookhaven Middle School site, Deer Springs (in the Flint area) and Old Moulton Road/Mud Tavern.

The company is also in the process, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, of cleaning up several dump sites in Lawrence County.

According to Morgan County Economic Development Association data, 3M is the county's third largest private employer.

This story will be updated.

eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

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