In April, 3M reported to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management that it was discharging chemicals that are illegal to put into water. But records show that the state of Alabama had been alerted for years and did not stop the continued release of the toxic chemical into the Tennessee River.
Hillary McKnight stomped along the banks of Aldridge Creek in Huntsville, Alabama on a cloudy March morning, trying to scare off snakes before she picked up a plastic water bottle on the water’s edge.
It was her second creek cleanup in two weeks after learning the bottles break down over time into microplastics — tiny plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters in length — that pollute waterways. Conservation group Tennessee Riverkeeper organized the event as part of their campaign to respond to growing concerns over plastic pollution in Southeastern waterways. A 2018 study identified the Tennessee River as one of the most heavily polluted by plastics in the world.