North Alabama utility warns against drinking water

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A north Alabama utility warned thousands of its customers Thursday not to drink their tap water because of contamination from chemicals possibly linked to health problems in children.

Officials from the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority held a news conference about potentially hazardous levels of two chemicals in Tennessee River water after the Environmental Protection Agency recently issued an advisory about the chemicals.

Authority general manager Don Sims said the system’s 10,000 customers shouldn’t drink or cook with tap water since it contains the substances.

“I would rather be over-cautious than under-cautious,” Sims said. “I’m not a doctor, I’m not a chemist, but when they tell one class of people the water is not safe, I don’t want to be the one to say, ‘You drink it and you don’t.’ So I said, ‘Nobody drink it.’”

Officials said they plan to build a temporary filtering system that should be complete in the fall, but a permanent one won’t be operational for several years.

Tests have found perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate in the system’s water. The authority filed a federal lawsuit last year blaming contamination on companies including 3M, which has a plant in Decatur, but the corporation has said there is no proof of any harm and called federal advisories about the chemicals overly conservative.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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