Calhoun City Council approves resolution in litigation regarding PFAS

Tuesday, July 9, 2024–11:30 a.m.

-Blake Silvers, Calhoun Times-

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A recent lawsuit filed against the City of Calhoun is one step closer to a resolution following a vote by the council this week. 

Monday night, council members unanimously approved an agreement to resolve litigation with an environmental group regarding its supply of drinking water. 

“The city has entered into an agreement which will now go to CRBI for their approval which we anticipate they will approve, in order to propose a consent decree in federal court to resolve the litigation that the Coosa River Basin Initiative started with the Moss Land Company, and the City of Calhoun,” Attorney Andy Davis said. 

In March, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a 75-page lawsuit on behalf of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, demanding large fines to be levied against the city and Moss Land Company as laid out in the Federal Clean Water Act — an amount not to exceed $66,712 per day. That lawsuit came after the city was given a notice of intent to file suit back in September 2023.

The lawsuit is directly related to a suit filed by Moss Land Company in Gordon County Superior Court in January that states they received a similar notice to file suit from SELC and CRBI in November 2023, addressing a high level of forever chemicals — PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) — which allegedly was being released into the Coosawattee River from their land.

As previously reported, the Moss Land Company then filed suit against the city in response, saying that the city had, for years, been dumping waste from the water treatment plant on their land for disposal. That waste was, according to the suit, contaminated by forever chemicals because the City of Calhoun processes wastewater from manufacturers that contain PFAS.

That suit claimed the city had dumped over 28,000 tons of the contaminated sludge on part of their property, addressed in the suit as Sludge Field 11, which is directly next to the Coosa River — and is upstream of the city’s main drinking water intake. The suit also claimed that they were not aware of the fact that the waste was contaminated, and requested for the city to handle cleanup costs.

The suit from CRBI and SELC had asked for fines against both the city and Moss Land Company as addressed under the Clean Water Act, as well as several other items related to stopping the pollution — cessation of dumping on Sludge Field 11, remediation of that land, a declaration that the disposal of PFAS-contaminated waste is hazardous to the environment and public health, remediation and cessation of dumping on other land near the Coosa in Gordon County, connections to city water for those whose drinking has been affected, and upgrades to the drinking water treatment to remove PFAS contamination.

Since then, the city has made several strides in reducing the amount of detectible PFAS levels in the water supply with the implementation of granular carbon filter installation at both the Mauldin Road and Brittany Drive treatment plants, has provided free water supply hookups to those with contaminated wells, and has opened a free drinking water supply station at the Brittany Drive facility. The city has also worked with an engineering firm to test several pilot programs as part of a long-term plan for future water filtration. 

“The city now has 30 days to get the consent decree submitted,” Davis said. “That will be followed by a 60-day process to be submitted in court for approval there.”