Motion hearings in ‘forever chemicals’ lawsuit to begin Monday

Sunday, May 7, 2023–2:40 p.m.

-John Bailey, Rome News-Tribune-

A judge will hear motions Monday in a lawsuit concerning Rome’s attempt to recoup some of the funds used to clean up chemicals dumped into the Oostanaula River from upstream.

The lawsuit filed in 2019 contends that Rome has spent millions of dollars to clean up toxic perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS and PFOAS, released by chemical companies, carpet manufacturers and Dalton into its drinking water supply.

The majority of the city’s water intakes are on the Oostanaula River. Since Rome was notified of the existence of the elevated presence of the chemicals, it has switched over to draw water from the Etowah River.

The existence of the toxic chemicals also led the Rome City Commission to approve a cumulative 9% water rate hike in late February. That extra cost to customers is to pay for a $99.4 million reverse osmosis system to filter the harmful chemicals from Oostanaula River water.

The city water department is also using expensive temporary measures, such as granular activated carbon filters, to address the problem. Those measures have cost over $3 million as of 2022.

Among a bevy of motions to be heard in Floyd County Superior Court on Monday includes several challenging the validity of expert witnesses.

As an example, in one motion filed by the City of Rome, attorneys state that Dr. Andy Davis, an expert witness for 3M refused to concede that the chemicals were in the water supply, even when confronted with evidence to refute his position.

First (Davis) opines that 3M cannot be responsible for any PFOA in Rome’s water supply. His basis for this opinion? A corporate representative testified — in a different case — that his products didn’t contain PFOA,” the motion filed by the City of Rome stated. “However, when faced with the fact that the same 3M corporate representative later testified — in this case — that 3M’s products did in fact contain PFOA as an impurity and the fact that 3M’s own correspondences with the EPA confirm the existence of PFOA in its products Dr. Davis refused to revise his opinions.”

Other motions from the defendants seek to exclude expert testimony from environmental scientists and economists.

Among the motions challenging the testimony of expert witnesses, are several that have been filed under seal. Defendants 3M, Shaw, Daikin America and Dalton Utilities sought successfully to keep their challenges to the testimony of environmental scientists, like Steven Amter, under wraps.

Up to this point there have been several hearings and delays to the trial, and at least one motion is seeking to have a judge decide the case, instead of a jury. A tentative trial date is scheduled for June 5.

Of the original 50 plus defendants in the case, only 12 remain including Shaw Industries, 3M, Daikin America, DuPont and the City of Dalton.

The hearing is scheduled for Monday, May 8 at 1:30 p.m. before Floyd County Superior Court Judge Bryan Johnson.

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