Alabama water utility sues Dalton carpet makers

The Gadsden, Ala. water utility is suing 32 North Georgia carpet makers and suppliers claiming they release toxic chemicals into streams which eventually flow into Alabama.

The state’s public health department warned water customers in Northern Alabama last week of tainted water that can lead to health problems in pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and formula-fed infants. At-risk Alabamians were encouraged to switch to bottled water.

The Gadsden water authority provides drinking water in Etowah County, as well as nine nearby utilities across Northeast Alabama.

The carpet and textile makers, most in and around Dalton, use perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), as a stain resistant. The lawsuit says the used water is not adequately treated by Dalton Utilities which discharges the water into a tributary of the Coosa River.

“Gadsden Water has suffered substantial economic and consequential damage, including expenses associated with the future installation and operation of a filtration system capable of removing the chemicals from the water and lost profits and sales,” the lawsuit states.

The Carpet and Rug Institute, the industry trade group in Dalton, didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.

Georgia communities downriver from Dalton support the lawsuit.

“Gadsden is justified and the city of Rome should join them,” Joe Cook, spokesman for the Coosa River Basin Initiative, an environmental group, told the AJC on Monday. “Downstream property owners and water users shouldn’t have their right to the use and enjoyment of that water taken away or infringed upon. The upstream polluters should pay the costs; not the downstream water users.”